Frank McCloud (played by Humphrey Bogart) is a war veteran who arrives in Key Largo, Florida to visit the family of a buddy who was killed in WWII. He meets his fallen mate’s father, James Temple (by Lionel Barrymore) and his widow Nora (by Lauren Bacall). The Temple family manage the Hotel Key Largo, which has seen better days. However even though it’s still off season, to Frank’s surprise, the hotel is full. He discovers it has been taken over by gangster Johnny Rocco (by Edward G. Robinson). As a result of his stand-over crimes during prohibition, Rocco has been exiled to Cuba but he is back here with “his boys” for one last big job. His lady-friend Gaye Dawn (by Claire Trevor), is also along for the trip. She hopes to reconcile with Johnny but these days she is far more distracted by the drink than by Johnny. The group all become holed-up in the hotel when a hurricane arrives and wreaks havoc outside. The anxiety caused by the storm, blended with these strong personalities, leads to a series of arguments, lies, double-crosses and violence. Frank, disillusioned by war, takes no action against the brutal gang – which confounds the helpless group, until eventually Rocco just goes too far and inflames Frank’s anger. He then forms a plan to overcome this cruel and selfish man and his gang ….
This is a good drama, a very early role for Lauren Bacall, but she is important and effective here. Bogart is his usual non-committal but intense self, with Edward G. Robinson very strong as the brutal Johnny Rocco. In my view the best performance is Claire Trevor’s depiction of the besotted former bright star and cabaret singer Gaye Dawn, who holds a pathetic torch for Johnny. This work won her an Academy Award (Oscar) in 1949 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, which is very well deserved. Even then, the sets, scenery and effects of the storm and huge seas are done well – and the treatment of the indigenous Native Americans who feature as part if the story, is well balanced for the time.
Made in 1948. Directed by John Huston