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KEY LARGO (1948)

Writer-director John Huston unleashed tropical fury on the screen, at least according to the film’s ads, with this combination of social commentary and gangster film. Producer Jerry Wald convinced him (with Richard Brooks cowriting) to turn Maxwell Anderson’s verse play about a Spanish Civil War deserter into the story of a World War II veteran (Humphrey Bogart) who runs into gangsters when visiting the family of a friend killed in battle. His idealism clashes with the hoodlums’ corruption in a microcosm of postwar tensions. The film provided a powerful star vehicle for Bogart and Lauren Bacall, in their last film together, and Edward G. Robinson as a gangster modeled on Al Capone. Best of all, however, was Claire Trevor as Robinson’s alcoholic moll. In the famous scene in which she stumbles through a performance of “Moanin’ Low” to earn a drink, her discomfort was real: it was filmed with no rehearsal. Nevertheless, she nailed the realization of how much the song—about an abused woman—applies to her character, and Trevor picked up an Oscar for her troubles. (d. John Huston, 101m, 35mm)

New print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.