A missed opportunity, perhaps, but still an entertaining one.
Key Largo doesn’t actually do all that much with its most tantalizing elements: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Instead, director John Huston hands the movie over to Edward G. Robinson – which I suppose makes sense considering his Johnny Rocco is a gangster who has commandeered a Florida hotel.
Bogart plays Frank McCloud, a World War II vet visiting the widow (Bacall) and father (Lionel Barrymore) of a man who died under his command. They run a hotel in the Florida Keys, and McCloud arrives to discover that Rocco and his henchmen have holed up there as fugitives. A standoff of sorts ensues, heightened by an approaching hurricane that pins everyone down and amps up the sweaty claustrophobia.
You won’t find a drop of flop sweat on Robinson. First seen soaking in a tub while chomping on a cigar, he arises from the water to put a stranglehold on the film. (Huston is more than willing to indulge him, even offering a close-up of Robinson’s bass face as he’s being shaved.) Whether he’s lasciviously threatening Bacall – we can’t hear what he whispers in her ear at one point – or forcing his dame (an Oscar-winning Claire Trevor) to sing for a drink, Robinson is a one-man show. When Bogart’s McCloud finally finds his nerve (there are shades of Casablanca‘s Rick here), you hardly believe it. Key Largo belongs to its villain, through and through.