Film / Key Largo

Key Largo is a 1948 Film Noir directed by John Huston, adapted In Name Only from a 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson.

Humphrey Bogart plays Frank McCloud, a World War II veteran who visits a shoddy, run-down hotel in Key Largo, Florida, that has been taken over by a notorious gangster named Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson). Rocco is waiting at the hotel to conduct business, and awaits the first chance to flee to Cuba where he'd been exiled by the feds.

The hotel is run by the disabled James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) and his daughter-in-law Nora (Lauren Bacall), the widow of Frank's old friend. James mourns the loss of his son in Italy and wants him to have died a hero. A passing sheriff's deputy, checking on the place as a hurricane threatens to blow in, is also taken hostage by Rocco's gang. A group of local Seminoles try to find sanctuary but are forced to huddle outside as the storm approaches.

The hurricane arrives before the gang can do business and depart, and the mobsters are trapped with the hostages as the hurricane hits shore.

Tropes used by the film noir:

  • The Alcoholic: Gaye
  • The Bully: Rocco is this way to everyone, even to his own Mooks and alcoholic girlfriend Gaye. The hurricane shows that Rocco can be more of a coward than the people he bullies.
  • Die Hard on an X: One of the earliest film examples. However, while the characters are held hostage in an isolated environment for the bulk on the film, Frank doesn't get to sneaking around and knocking off bad guys until they're on the boat towards the end.
  • Expy: Rocco is loosely based on Lucky Luciano, one of the most powerful gangsters of the 1930s who ended up imprisoned in 1936 and then deported to Sicily by 1946.
  • Film Noir: Key Largo is considered one of the defining noirs.
  • Guile Hero: McCloud plays Rocco like a fiddle throughout the film, right up to the end.
  • Hostile Weather
  • Ironic Echo: Rocco spends most of the movie armed and dangerous, threatening to shoot the hostages on the slightest whim, taunting Frank as a coward for surviving the war. When the hurricane starts turning Rocco into a quivering mass, Frank taunts back: "You don't like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don't you? If it doesn't stop, shoot it!"
  • The Mafia: Rocco and his gang are old professionals from the heyday of the 1930s. One of them talks about the possibility of Prohibition coming back, which would return the gang to their former glory.
  • Rasputinian Death: Frank has to shoot Rocco, who is attempting all the while with his last strength to raise his gun and shoot Frank, three times before he finally stays down.
  • Romancing the Widow: Frank with Nora, although it's mostly on her part. Frank is still dealing with the guilt of surviving the war where his friend - Nora's husband - hadn't.
    • The UST in this film is unbelievable, just waiting for them to kiss. And they never do.
  • The So-Called Coward: Frank appears cowardly in Rocco's eyes because the "living war hero" refuses to pick up a gun and take a shot at the mobster. Nora and James both believe that Frank could tell the gun wasn't loaded from the weight, but Frank rebuffs such talk. Frank's desire to "make a world in which there's no place for Johnny Rocco" comes back after the sheriff mistakenly kills the Osceola Brothers for the deputy's death and it looks as though Rocco will get away.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Gaye sings "Moanin' Low," a song about a woman in an abusive relationship, which describes Gaye to a T.
  • Those Two Actors: This was Bogart and Bacall's final film together. They would have a radio show together, and they did a version of The Petrified Forest for television in the fifties, but contract problems and Bogart's illness and death prevented them from working on another film together.
  • World War II: provides the backdrop to Frank's disillusionment.
    • Though in the original stage version, the hero fought in the Spanish Civil War.