Sunday, September 1, 2019

Key Largo (1948): The Hurricane Cometh

At the height of hurricane season, my cinematic thoughts drifted to movies from the golden age in which a hurricane played a major role.  Key Largo was the immediate film that came to mind.  Bogart was a major star by the time the picture hit the screens, and Bacall was no shrinking violet in the realm of celebrity herself.  It was the last of their screen pairings, all of which formed their iconic '40s on-screen bond.

Also in the mix is the legendary Edward G. Robinson, playing a character he had perfected almost 20 years earlier: a gangster (ie: a hood, thug, underworld male-diva). Oh, and there's a Barrymore on hand, Lionel.  It's always good to have a Barrymore on hand if you can get one. Rounding out the star power of this film noir classic is Claire Trevor, giving a no-holds-barred performance as Robinson's boozy, anxiety-ridden moll.

Director John Huston, who excelled at this type of taut, dark, dangerous Warner Brothers picture, knew how to get what he wanted from Trevor's performance.  In one of the film's memorable scenes, Claire is forced to sing by sadistic Robinson. Huston informed Trevor that they were to film her song that very day.  Not a trained singer, and not having rehearsed the song yet, she felt very ill-at-ease and intimidated by the A-list actors seated directly in front of her. The result was a hesitant, nervous, uncomfortable rendition, exactly what Huston was hoping for.  It also resulted in Trevor garnering a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

If you're in the path of a hurricane, stay safe.  If you are just having rainy day blues, catch this impressive, totally watchable classic.

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