Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Key Largo

Key Largo
seen @ Landmark Loews Jersey Theater, Jersey City, NJ

When I think of Florida, my grandmother comes to mind. This was very long ago, so my memories are dim and fragmented. She was nice, though I can't picture her face. My mother always encouraged me to write to her, but I didn't need much prompting; she always sent me money.

She lived in St. Augustine. We might have visited her at least a couple of times that I recall. I have a vivid image of the street she lived on, if not her house. It was a sandy road, unpaved, with no sidewalks. While in Florida, we also went to Disney World at least once. No memories of that.

We did not visit the Florida Keys. I have no burning desire to do so, though I'm sure they're beautiful, based on what we see of them in Key Largo. John Huston gave us a few location shots, of the Seven Mile Bridge and the piers. I wouldn't want to live down there, though. I'd be too afraid of the damage hurricanes can do. They're enough of a problem here in the northeast.

Largo was based on a play, and as I watched it I tried to imagine how certain scenes would be staged. I imagine it's not too hard to provide sound effects for a hurricane. Maybe you could rattle the sets backstage to simulate the blowing wind. Could you have a tree smashing through a window on stage? Maybe that was for the movie. The climax on the boat probably plays much better on a movie screen.

When Jacqueline wrote about seeing Largo on a big screen, she pointed out how it almost seemed like a different movie because everything's magnified. Absolutely true. Every word. I didn't have the bad experience with the audience she had. The Loews JC crowd was totally respectful, as they almost always are. Going there for this movie was a spur of the moment decision. I'm glad I did it. I feel at home watching a movie there like I do no place else.

Let's talk about Claire Trevor for a minute. Did you know there's a Claire Trevor School of the Arts? It's part of the University of California-Irvine. Jon Lovitz went there, among other notables. They offer programs for visual as well as performing arts.

Largo was Trevor's Oscar-winning role. She had appeared with Bogey before, in the movie Dead End, another Oscar-nominated performance, plus she had done radio work with Eddie G in the late 30s. Her role here may not seem important at first, but it provides depth to the overall story, as well as a contrast to Lauren Bacall's more virtuous lead role. Plus, she ends up doing something very important late in the story. She's quite good as the sympathetic bad girl, a role she specialized at throughout her career.

Largo is a great movie, but you already knew that. It's Eddie G's swan song as a cinematic gangster, just as White Heat was for Jimmy Cagney a year later. When Lionel Barrymore tells Eddie "Your kind has no place in the world anymore," or something like that, the effect is doubly felt because it's being said to someone famous for playing gangsters. Very canny bit of casting there. Indeed, the gangster picture did fall into decline for awhile, until a film school brat named Coppola adapted a certain bestselling novel about the mafia... but that is another story.


  1. Nice touch with the Higgins song.

    Key Largo is a story with great depth. I never get tired of watching it, and watching it from different character perspectives each time. I guess that's what makes a classic.

  2. The characters are what interest me more about this movie every time I watch it. I used to just like it for the story, but it's the people within it, and the stars who play them, that provide its life.

  3. I adore this film. I really loved the suspense of the hurricane and the production design–those flapping veranda blinds created awesome shadows and added to the impending violence. Great review!

  4. Thanks. Yeah, even though it was mostly one location, the hotel, Huston made good use of it.


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