Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) is in Florida on his way to Key West. He stops in Key Largo to visit the family of George Temple, an Army buddy who served under him. He meets George’s father James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) and George’s widow Nora (Lauren Bacall). James owns the Key Largo Hotel. They invite Frank to stay overnight so they can get to know him better and reminisce about George.
Currently the hotel is still closed for the hurricane season but there is a party of six that wanted to rent the hotel for a week. They offered George extra so he rented them the rooms. The party consists of Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor), Curly Hoff (Thomas Gomez), Edward “Toots” Bass (Harry Lewis), Ralph Feeney (William Haade) and Angel Garcia (Dan Seymour). They claim they are in Florida to do some fishing but in reality Rocco is a wanted criminal, Gaye is his alcoholic moll and the other four are assorted minions and henchmen.
Frank, George and Nora visit for awhile talking about George. They find out that they all know each other more than they realize because of the stories George told Frank about his family and what George wrote to his wife and father about Frank.
Nora gets word that a hurricane is on its way. She and Frank start tying up the hotel’s boat and closing the shutters. Oil lamps are made ready. The wind starts to pick up and the local Seminole tribe shows up looking for shelter. Just as the storm is about to hit the minions and henchmen pull out guns and keep Frank, Nora and George hostage. The Seminole’s that came looking for shelter are turned away by Rocco’s men. Rocco had been in his room most of the time. He suddenly makes an appearance. Frank recognizes who Rocco is.
Tensions are heightened by both the gangsters inside the hotel and the storm raging outside. Rocco and his men are expecting Ziggy (Marc Lawrence). Rocco has one last score to finish and he can head to Cuba. Until then everyone’s life depends on Rocco’s mood. His temper is just as unpredictable as the storm outside. No one is sure if they will come out of either the hurricane or get away from Rocco alive.
“Key Largo” was released in 1948 and was directed by John Huston. It is a crime drama and a film noir based on Maxwell Anderson’s 1939 play. It is the fourth and the last film that featured both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Claire Trevor won an Oscar for Supporting Actress in her role as Gaye Dawn. She was awsome.
Even though the film has some first class actors that are known mostly for detective stories and murder stories, here it is basically a drama. There is some crime in it, but the plot revolves around the characters and not action or mystery or any involved plot. The characters are driven by emotion and each character has their own fleshed out existence. At least for the main characters. Rocco is the gangster. He is sadistic to others, especially Gaye who he basically created and then destroyed. Gaye is a psychologically abused woman who has no self esteem. James is looking for the son he lost. Nora is looking for the husband she lost. Frank is bitter perhaps a little cynical but he can be caring at times.
Frank is sort of a fractured hero. It comes out when it needs to for the sake of someone else. Frank’s heroism is not for himself. When he takes pity on Gaye and gives her a drink he is risking Rocco’s wrath but here his heroic deed is in a simple act of kindness to a broken woman. She’s a dog that’s been kicked. She returns that gesture by slipping him Rocco’s gun so he can defend himself if need be. It shows that inside there is still a human that could blossom if given some encouragement. Rocco is your basic narcissist. He also has a self esteem problem and needs approval and worship from others. What he is lacking he has to get from everyone else. There’s a whole couch full of neuroses with these characters and they’re stuck together. It’s not surprising that all these personalities clash. There’s more storm inside the hotel than out on the Key.
Most of the film was shot at the Warner Brothers studio. Only the opening shots were actually filmed in Florida. The hurricane was stock footage from the film “Night Unto Night” 1949.
In honor of this film, the real Key Largo hosts a Humphrey Bogart film festival every year. Lionel Barrymore was actually confined to a wheelchair during the filming. He was severely disabled with arthritis.
The woman who played the Old Indian Woman was Felipa Gómez. She was born in 1870, five years after the civil war ended. She died in 1967 at the age of 97.