The Timeless Allure of Bogart and Bacall in “Key Largo”

On July 16, 1948, Key Largo — adapted from the Maxwell Anderson play of the same name — brought its mix of noir and suspense to theaters. Is it an exaggeration to say that film was never the same again? A bit hyperbolic to be sure, but perhaps there’s a truth to this statement as well because here we are 78 years later and the film plays as magnificently as it did on the summer day it debuted all those decades ago.

Here’s an overview for those who may have missed it. (If you count yourself among their number, by all means rectify that immediately):

A World War II vet (Humphrey Bogart) ventured to the Florida Keys so he could pay his respects to a lost comrade’s widow (Lauren Bacall) and hotelier father (Lionel Barrymore). Unfortunately, his hosts’ latest check-ins are a fugitive racketeer (Edward G. Robinson) and his cronies, and a torrential storm sets up a riveting battle of wills.

Directed by the peerless John Huston, the film was a critical and financial success — so much so that Claire Trevor won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance as gangster’s moll Gaye Dawn.

The film is currently available from the Warner Archive Collection. It is one of those increasingly rare pictures in which all of the elements coalesced perfectly to create a singular masterpiece, and as such should not be missed. Plus, you just never can go wrong with Bogie and Bacall!