I got together with friends to watch a few movies tonight. After watching Five-Star Final a while back, we are all ardent Edward G. Robinson fans, and we all jumped at the chance to see him in Key Largo. Robinson found one of his greatest roles in Johnny Rocco, a hardened gangster who holds an off-season Florida hotel in terror, until he meets his match in Humphrey Bogart, a former G.I. who has come to pay respects to the family of his dead war buddy. The shot of Robinson smoking a cigar in a bathtub while an electric fan buzzes away next to him itself makes the film worth watching.
As good as Robinson is in this, the key supporting star is not this quintessential gangster actor, or the lovely Lauren Bacall, or even Bogart. One of the people who really makes this film incredible never even appears on the screen—master camera man Karl Freund, who did the cinematography for Metropolis, Dracula and many other of the best shot films ever mad. Freund’s camera draws out the natural beauty of Bacall, magnifies Robinson’s menace, conveys the heat and humidity of the Florida in a hurricane, with his camera focusing in on the beads of sweat on the foreheads of the actors, and underscores the claustrophobia implicit in Maxwell Anderson’s script.
I am going to add Key Largo to my list of films such as Citizen Kane that need to be watched at least once every two years, just because the performances and cinematography are so good.