Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo
Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart

'Key Largo' 'Key Largo' is a classic film noir made in 1948, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, and Claire Trevor. It was adapted from the stage play by Maxwell Anderson which ran on Broadway from 1939-40. The movie did well at the box-office and was critically well received also. Claire Trevor won the Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the gangster's alcoholic moll, Gaye Dawn.

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The plot of the movie concerns a gang of hoods who have taken over a Key Largo hotel. (Key Largo is the largest of the remote coral islands in the Florida Keys.) Bogart, plays Frank McCloud who comes along to visit the father of a war time pal and of course, immediately gets involved in the action. Tempers begin to boil over within the confined space of the old building - linked only by a causeway to the mainland - and the conflict within the hotel is mirrored and accentuated by the late summer hurricane violence outside.


Although the script was adapted from the 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson, there are many changes, such as the gang being Mexican bandits, not mobsters and the Frank McCloud character is a disgraced deserter from the Second World War, not from the Spanish Civil War. All the play's main characters had their names changed in the film version.

The dilapidated hotel and the beach area where much of the action takes place were constructed on the Warner Bros. lot, as Jack Warner did not want to repeat the costly location shooting of Huston's 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre' of the previous year, much of which had been shot in Mexico. The entire shoot took only 78 days.

The boat which Rocco's gang use to leave Key Largo, is the 'Santana', the same name as Bogart's own sailing yacht. The Santana yacht was actually owned by several different actors before Bogart. Sailing enthusiasts can find used yachts for sale anywhere, but would be hard pressed to find one with a history like the Santana.

The movie was the second pairing of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart in 1948, after 'The Treasure of Sierra Madre'. Both films are wonderful examples of director and actor working together at their artistic peak.

Karl Freund's black and white cinematography and the haunting music provided by Max Steiner wonderfully project the build up of tension between the main characters against the backdrop of the impending storm which seems to threaten the hotel both literally and figuratively. Warner Bros. insisted that the movie be filmed on the studio sound stage and not on location to keep costs down, but Karl Freund's expressive use of the camera negates any impression of staginess.

'Key Largo' is dramatic and full of suspense with great acting from a great cast. A good story well told.

Main Cast

The strength of this movie lies in its brilliant casting. John Huston was an excellent director and also a clever adapter of other people's materials, as he clearly shows in 'Key Largo'. He had an uncanny way of getting the right people in the right jobs for his projects. Whilst the storyline, is similar to other Bogart movies such as 'The Desperate Hours' and 'The Petrified Forest' in each of which he plays a gangster holding people hostage, in 'Key Largo' he is on the side of the law for a change, and is typically laconic and brave as he confronts the leader of the gang, Johnny Rocco, a brutal villain played impeccably by Edward G. Robinson. This is the last movie in which Bogart and Robinson appeared together after doing so several times during the 1930's.

Lauren Bacall appears as the widow of Bogart's war time pal and with her husky voice and attitude is an excellent match for Bogie's simple, heroic character with whom, naturally, she falls in love.

The veteran, and naturally wheelchair bound, Lionel Barrymore who was severely disabled by arthritis, is completely believable as Temple, the hotel proprietor. Claire Trevor cleverly does not overplay Gaye Dawn, the moll who is finally pushed too far by Rocco.

Humphrey Bogart ... Frank McCloud
Edward G. Robinson ... Johnny Rocco
Lauren Bacall ... Nora Temple
Lionel Barrymore ... James Temple
Claire Trevor ... Gaye Dawn
Thomas Gomez ... Richard "Curly" Hoff
Harry Lewis ... Edward "Toots" Bass
John Rodney ... Deputy Clyde Sawyer
Marc Lawrence ... Ziggy
Dan Seymour ... Angel Garcia
Monte Blue ... Sheriff Ben Wade
William Haade ... Ralph Feeney
Jay Silverheels ... John Osceola
Rodd Redwing ... Tom Osceola


Director ... John Huston
Producer ... Jerry Wald
Written by ... Maxwell Anderson (play), Richard Brooks, John Huston
Music ... Max Steiner
Cinematography ... Karl Freund
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Warner Bros.
Release date ... July 16, 1948
Running time ... 101 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Supporting Actress ... Claire Trevor