KEY LARGO

(1948)
With Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Thomas Gomez, Monte Blue
Directed by John Huston
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

Key Largo     KEY LARGO recycles the storyline (a gangster on the lam who holds several people hostage) of THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936), but the differences between the two films reflect America's fears at the time each was made.  Although the repeal of prohibition had reduced gangster activity significantly throughout the nation, it was still a palpable threat in the mid-1930s, such that PETRIFIED FOREST's wandering poet Leslie Howard is willing to sacrifice himself if it means ridding the world of one more thug like Duke Mantee (played by Humphrey Bogart in his first major screen role).  By the end of World War II, after Nazi Germany had shown the world horrors that made gangster activity seem benign by comparison, such self-sacrifice seemed more foolhardy than noble. 

     In KEY LARGO, Bogart plays a war veteran who determines that the threat posed by gangster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) is nothing compared to the atrocities he's witnessed, and he declares "One Johnny Rocco more or less isn't worth dying for."  He's right, in a way, but eventually comes to realize the importance of fighting evil of any magnitude. 

     The was the last screen teaming of Bogart and Bacall, playing roles that allowed no room for their usual suggestive chemistry.  The film belongs to Edward G. Robinson, who captures all the layers of Johnny Rocco's menace and paranoia, in one of the last gangster roles he would essay.  His first appearance in the film is both crude and hilarious, as he lounges in the bathtub while smoking a cigar and reading a newspaper.  As director John Huston explained the moment, "I wanted to see what the monster looked like out of his shell."  ½ - JL

Humphrey Bogart     Edward G. Robinson     The Stuff You Gotta Watch

Stuff You Gotta Watch
http://thestuffyougottawatch.com
Copyright © 2010 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee