Claire Trevor

Birth Name: Claire Wemlinger

Birth: March 8, 1910

Death: April 8, 2000

Number of Films Claire Trevor Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

Collaborations with Humphrey Bogart seemed to work out very well for Claire Trevor. She was nominated for an Oscar for her very brief but powerful role as Bogie’s ex-girlfriend in 1937’s Dead End. She went on to win the Oscar for her role as Edward G. Robinson’s alcoholic lounge singer girlfriend in 1948’s Key Largo. Add in her tremendous part in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, and you get to see Trevor’s great range as an actress in just three of her more than sixty films.

Born in Brooklyn to an Irish mother and French father, Trevor had aspirations to be an actor since childhood and would go on to be a star on stage, radio, television, and film. Often playing the tough dame from the wrong side of the tracks, Trevor also did well early in her career in Westerns, even starring alongside a new young cowboy named John Wayne in Stagecoach.

What personally draws me to Trevor’s performances is her ability to play beauty, strength, and brokenness – often in the same character. Add in to that her lifelong passion for supporting the arts – Trevor became such a large supporter to the University of California, Irvine’s drama department that they named the acting school after her. She also donated both her Oscar and her Emmy to the school where they sit on permanent display.

I think Trevor is one of those great Classic Hollywood actresses who tends to be left out of conversations about the greats for some reason, but her film legacy, drama school namesake, and award recognitions are more than enough to earn her a bright spot in Hollywood history, and a spot in The Usual Suspects!

The Films

Dead End – 1937

Trevor plays Francey, Bogart’s ex who’s turned to prostitution to make ends meet. The scene they share coupled with the scene of Bogart being chastised by his mother are, I believe, two of the most powerful scenes from Bogart’s entire career. Director William Wyler had to leave out the overt references to both prostitution and syphilis in the scene she shares with Bogart here, but what’s left unsaid is even more powerful. Their sexual tension is off the charts. When they stand an inch away from one another before Bogart tries to kiss her, it feels like someone’s hold back two magnets from clanging together. Yes, Trevor is only in the film for a few minutes, but it was such a strong showing that she was nominated for an Oscar. That should be all you need to know!

You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Trevor plays Jo Keller, the jewel fence that doctor/gangster Edward G. Robinson turns to when he needs to move some diamonds. Trevor is a lot of fun here, and we get to see her playing the tough gal who’s actually got some power over the fellas. Trevor’s unrequited pining for Robinson is great as we truly believe she’s fallen in love with the mind behind the man.

You can read my original write up on the film here.

Key Largo – 1948

Trevor plays Robinson’s alcoholic girlfriend and former lounge singer, Gaye Dawn. She’s great in the role, and not surprisingly, won an Oscar for her performance as the gun moll that’s living out her last years in the bottom of a bottle while clinging to a madman who gave up on her a long time ago. One of the best behind-the-scenes stories from this film is that Director John Huston sprung Trevor’s A Cappella performance of “Moanin’ Low” on her the day of shooting. If true, it certainly helped give Trevor a shaky and painful performance that’ll make you cringe in the best possible way. Perhaps the greatest testament to her performance here is the fact that she seems so vulnerable and pathetic at the beginning of the film, only to come around and help and good guys at the end, giving us just a glimpse of the beauty and power she was able to play so well in a film like Clitterhouse.

You can read my original write up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature here at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight some of Bogart’s greatest recurring costars! You can read the other entries in the series here.*

Edward G. Robinson

Robinson Bogart Brother Orchid

Birth Name: Emmanuel Goldenberg

Date of Birth: December 12, 1893

Date of Death: January 26, 1973

Number of films Edward G. Robinson made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

To be completely honest – I didn’t really like Edward G. Robinson before I started this blog. I knew very little about him. I’d only seen one of his five Bogart collaborations with Key Largo. I’d seen so many bad impressions, parodies, and caricatures of the man that I really only knew him as the poster boy for a 1930’s gangster joke!

Now, though? I’ve seen all of his Bogart collaborations and many of his non-Bogart films and he blows my mind with the way that he can play subtlety despite the fact that he was so gifted at being over-the-top. If anyone can give Bogart a run for his money in the ‘Not-Necessarily-Handsome Actor Who Still Made it to Icon Level Status,’ it’s Robinson.

A Romanian immigrant to New York at the age of 10, Robinson jumped into Yiddish Theater at the tender age of 19 before eventually making it to Broadway less than two years later. After that? Hollywood stardom and a permanent legacy as one of Tinsel Town’s toughest bad guys.

One of the best opportunities that I’ve had from writing this blog is that I’ve gotten to know a great guy by the name of “Gonzalo” who runs a site in the same vein to the Bogie Film Blog that’s solely about Edward G. Robinson. Exploring Robinson’s roles film by film, Gonzalo’s site is a fantastic stop for anyone looking for some conversation on classic films and Robinson as an actor. (Fair warning – the site’s in Spanish, so I use Google Translate when I’m there, but very little is lost in the translation! Forgive any translation mishaps!)

Gonzalo was kind enough to chat with me a bit about Robinson, his site, and Robinson’s collaborations with Bogart. (Even though English isn’t Gonzalo’s first language, he was gracious enough to bear with me and my Bogart-obsessed questioning!)

Bogie Film Blog: Gonzalo, what was it that really drove you to create a website devoted to the films of Edward G. Robinson?

Gonzalo: I like to watch his films and [talk] about him, I can’t get enough of his movies and [it doesn’t] matter how many times I watch them, I always have a good time, even if some of them are so-so.

His autobiography is a great book and his life story is very interesting, full of greatness and dificulties. He is a proof that [for] people with talent and conviction, the sky is the limit. We’re talking about somebody who wasn’t handsome – a little guy – but he was one of the most popular, respected, and better paid actors of his time. Most people tend to think about him like “the guy that always played gangsters in movies,” but he was an actor who could play anything and [always be] convincing – in good or evil characters, happy or bitter, intelligent or sucker. I [was already] posting about him and his movies in another blog, but after [I found] your site, I had the idea to devote an entire site to Robinson. Why not?

BFB: Exactly! I love it and feel greatly honored that you decided to go down the same path with the Robinson blog. Maybe we can convince a few other diehard fans to do the same with a few other actors. . .

What’s your favorite Robinson film?

G: It’s very hard to pick a movie, and I may change some options tomorrow, next week, or the next year, but Scarlet Street [has] my favorite Robinson performance. Scarlet Street was the film that made me realize how great his performances [were], [he was]somebody who [went] beyond the screen and reached your soul. I already knew who he was before that, but I wasn’t very into him until I watched that movie on TV. It’s curious, but I know now that one of my grandfathers was also a big Edward G. Robinson fan, so I suppose it’s a family thing.

BFB: If someone isn’t very familiar with Robinson, what would you suggest for a good “gateway” film into his work?

G: That’s a hard one because of the wide variety of his acting skills. Probably I’d change my choice depending [on who was] asking me. [Do they] like gangsters films, thrillers, comedy, or drama? But if I a had to pick just one for everybody [it] would be Dr. Erhlich’s Magic Bullet, a great performance in a very touching movie.

BFB: Out of the five films that Robinson shared with Bogart (Bullets or Ballots, Kid Galahad, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, Brother Orchid, and Key Largo) which one would you say is your favorite?

G: Key Largo. I have to say that [for] a time, I didn’t have as much appreciation for it as [I do] now, but a few months ago I watched it one more time and I loved it. Robinson is great in that film, [as] is Bogart, [and] Bacall is beautiful in a very spirited performance. And Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, and the rest of the cast are terrific. The tension is very strong and Huston is in my top 5 film directors of all time. I usually don’t try to analyze a movie technically, but when you don’t care about how much time remains until the end of the movie that’s the sign of a great movie to me, and Key Largo makes you forget about anything else.

BFB: All right, Gonzalo, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only take two Robinson films and one other Classic Hollywood film that doesn’t star Robinson with you, which films would you take?

G: Scarlet Street and probably The Whole Town’s Talking for Robinson. In that John Ford movie [The Whole Town’s Talking], we have Robinson as a tough gangster and as a shy and simple guy in a very funny roll. And I’d carry also The Treasure Of Sierra Madre, perhaps the film I have watched [the most] times in my life and I still love it. But [for] some time, [I’ve been] very fond [of] W.C. Fields [and] I’d have to honor him [by] trying to ignore the “three movies only” rule and I’d try to sneak some more [along], like Witness For The Prosecution, To Be Or Not To Be, and It’s A Gift.

BFB: Gonzalo, thanks so much for your time and for the work that you’re doing on the Robinson site! If you want to visit Gonzalo’s blog, head over to his site here!

Now onto…

The Filmography

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

Bogart MacClane Robinson Bullets

Robinson plays Johnny Blake, an undercover cop who’s trying hard to keep his cool in the middle of a dangerous job. Apparently, the ‘Legion of Decency’ and the ‘Production Code Administration’ were starting to give the studios a hard time for glorifying gangsters. The studios’ response was to turn some of their best bad guys (James Cagney, Robinson, etc.) into good guys. The neat little work-around though, was that the good guys didn’t have to necessarily be good. Here, Robinson plays a cop who’s undercover as a bad guy, meaning we still get all the roughhousing and tough guy bravado that we would have had in a gangster role, but occasionally we get to see Robinson whisper into a phone, “Pssst! Yeah, I got’em fooled!” and we know that he’s still on the right side of the law. We also get a close quarters pistol duel between Robinson and Bogart at the end of the film! You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Robinson Bogart Galahad

Robinson plays boxing a promoter, Nick Donati, who stumbles across an unknown fighting phenomenon (Wayne Morris) at a hotel party and sees a chance to make a run for the heavyweight title and a whole lot of money. The only problem? The current champion works for mobster “Turkey” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), and Morgan is willing to do whatever it takes to win. The film has your standard cookie-cutter Cinderella story, but the cast of Robinson, Bette Davis, Wayne Morris, and Bogart rise above the material to create a very entertaining dramedy. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Bogart Robinson Clitterhouse

Robinson plays the unfortunately named Dr. Clitterhouse, a doctor so intrigued by the criminal mind that he decides to become a criminal in order to get some firsthand insight on their mindset and behaviors. The overall film suffers from tonal shifts – I wish they’d played it for a few less laughs – but it still has its moments. Robinson gets great scenes with both Claire Trevor and Bogart, especially their final confrontation together in his office. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

Bogart Robinson Orchid 2

Robinson plays mob boss Johnny Sarto, a gangster who’s had enough crime and violence in his life and is looking for a way out. After dallying with the civilian life however, Sarto decides that he wants his old gang back. The catch? The old gang doesn’t want him back. Seated at the table is Jack Buck, played by Humphrey Bogart, who’s next in line for the boss’ seat – leading to Robinson going on the run and eventually hiding out in a monastery. Robinson’s got some really nice scenes with fellow monk Donald Crisp, but I wish that they’d gone a bit edgier with his character so that the eventual character arc would have been slightly more dramatic. Overall, Ann Southern, Crisp, Bogart, and Robinson are all great and it’s still worth a watch. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Key Largo – 1948

Bogart Robinson Largo

Robinson plays mobster on the run, Johnny Rocco – a gangster who’s on the verge of losing his confidence. We get to watch Robinson strut, punch, slap, yell, threaten, sweat, quiver, and cower all in just an hour and forty minutes as he begrudgingly deals with his hostages (Bogart, Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore) and his drunk ex-girlfriend (Claire Trevor). On the receding side of his career, this was supposedly a “thank you” role for Robinson after having given Bogart so much time to shine in their earlier collaborations together. Robinson nails it. No matter what’s going right or wrong for Rocco in any given scene, there is an underlying sense of fear present that pervades every word and action on display. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an going feature where we highlight some of Bogart’s more prolific collaborators! You can read the rest of the entries here.*

Lauren Bacall

Bogie and Bacall Big Sleep

Birth Name: Betty Joan Perske

Date of Birth: September 16, 1924

Date of Death: August 12, 2014

Number of films that Lauren Bacall made with Humphrey Bogart:  6

The Actress

I wasn’t planning on adding Bacall to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog for quite a while. Much like when I saved Casablanca for my final Bogart film review, Bacall was going to be the cherry on top of a year spent recapping some of Bogart’s other greatest collaborators. I was going to save the best for last. But alas, with Bacall’s passing this past week, I couldn’t help but spend some time reliving a handful of my favorite films with my all-time favorite actress.

When I heard the news that Bacall had died, I had a strange feeling of regret rather than remorse. Usually when one of my favorite Hollywood icons passes, it leaves me in a funk for several weeks. (Jimmy Stewart passed not too long after my grandfather. Don’t even ask how wonderful I was to be around for a few months after that . . .) Here though, I felt different. I felt an immediate sense of great disappointment rather than grieving.

I think that in the back of my mind I had always assumed that I would eventually get to see Ms. Bacall in person. Maybe even get the chance to talk to her or get an autograph. Perhaps it would be at a TCM or Bogart film festival – I’m not sure, I hadn’t actually planned it out in my head, but of all the actors that I’ve written about since starting this blog, Lauren Bacall was still alive. She was still with us. She was a physical link to Classic Hollywood, Humphrey Bogart, and cinema history. She was a living, breathing presence that graced the same ground that I did.

I have no doubt that the grieving will hit me sooner than later. Just the act of creating this post gave me pause a few times as I popped Bogie/Bacall DVDs. A quick and simple screencap from To Have and Have Not ended up lasting over an hour as I just started watching the film rather than watching for a good moment to steal.

So no Bacall bio from me this week. Maybe someday. If you need to, check out her IMDB page here, or read her wonderful autobiography. Head over to Wikipedia for her page or watch one of the numerous Bogart DVD extras that record her amazing rise to fame at nineteen and the subsequent love affair with Hollywood’s greatest star. I just don’t think that I’m ready to dive back in and write-up a more concise record of her life and career yet.

Rest in peace, Slim. If only we were so lucky as to have seen you walk into that great gin joint in the sky and be reunited with Mr. Bogart. Your legacy will live forever, but your presence will be sorely missed.

The Filmography

To Have and Have Not – 1944

Bacall To have and have not 2

From my original post on the film here:

“I . . . I don’t even know where to begin. I fell so deeply in love with this woman because of this film. Marie is reportedly based largely on Hawks’ own glamorous wife, which, if true, good for him. This being Bacall’s first movie, I am continually astounded at how she is able to play such a depth of maturity at such a young age. I’ve seen Bogart fall in love with a lot of women on screen, but this is the one time I truly believed it. It’s more than the lines and the blocking. We are watching this woman and this man court one another right before our eyes.”

Bacall plays Marie Browning, a young grifter in Fort de France, Martinique who falls for Bogart’s tour fishing captain, Harry Morgan. Again, from the orignal post:

“The first moment when Lauren Bacall sits on Humphrey Bogart’s lap in To Have and Have Not, something inside me stirs in such a deep and private way that I’m uncomfortable watching the film with other people in the room.

“Broke and stranded in Martinique, Marie takes to conning men – teasing them to the point of stupidity, before making off with their wallets. She says that she’s slowly building her funds so that she can make it back home, but we don’t believe her because Morgan doesn’t believe her. He reads her even better than she can read him or any other man. Marie is running from a past of pain and abuse, and the fact that Morgan picks up on it so quickly unnerves her deeply.

“Morgan and Marie are two people who both exude extreme confidence while privately loathing what they’ve let themselves become. So close are they attuned to each other’s inner truth, that they immediately start to distance themselves in a bit of role-play – as if using each other’s real names might be too intimate. Morgan only refers to her ‘Slim.’ Marie refers to him as ‘Steve.’ (Which, according to IMDB might, be a reference to the word “stevedore” which means “dockworker.”) They circle one another endlessly, gently keeping their distance – until Hawks has them touch. And then? Boom. White hot sparks.

“Bacall was nineteen when she starred in this! NINETEEN! What were you doing when you were nineteen? I was . . . well, I won’t bother telling you where my sympathies lay back then.”

This was the film where I fell hard for Lauren Bacall and she became my number one classic film screen crush. I could have this one on a loop in the background for eternity and never get tired of it. You can also read the write-up I did on the radio adaption of the film starring both Bacall and Bogart here.

The Big Sleep – 1946

Bacall Big sleep

A film that I got to enjoy posting on twice, The Big Sleep is available in two versions. From my original posts here (1946’s Hollywood release) and here (the unreleased pre-edited 1945 version):

“The widely accepted and well chronicled story is that Lauren Bacall’s agent, Charles Feldman, started to get nervous about his new young wunderkind after horrible reviews were written for her performance in the film Confidential AgentAgent was Bacall’s follow-up film after becoming an overnight sensation alongside of Bogart in To Have and Have Not, and Feldman was apparently freaking out at the idea of Bacall disappearing into Hollywood obscurity after being labeled as a one-hit wonder.

“With this film already delayed, Feldman wrote to Jack Warner, pleading to reshoot some scenes and add more of the fiery romantic flavor that Bogart and Bacall shared in To Have and Have Not. Warner agreed, Director Howard Hawks eventually relented to rework some shots, the stars reassembled a year after production, and seven reels of the film were altered with reordered scenes and a little over 20 minutes of new or alternate material.

“Bogart and Bacall’s romance is beefed up considerably. I felt that in the pre-release version, Bacall comes off as a bit more threatening to Bogart. Reshoots were done on a few scenes to make her a little more affectionate, and their innuendo-heavy ‘horse racing’ scene was added to help build up the sexual tension. In the original version though, I thought that Bacall came off as much less trustworthy and there seemed to be considerably more tension as to whether or not she was really on Bogart’s side.”

As the older sister Vivian Rutledge, Bacall is fantastic in both films. Whether you love or hate the overly complicated plot, this one’s a must see if you’re a Bacall fan, a Bogart fan, a classic film fan, or a cinema fan of any sort!

Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946

It’s just a brief cameo here by the couple playing themselves. I’ve got a write-up on the film coming in about a month, so, as I said, I was planning on holding off on this ‘Usual Suspects’ post for a bit. But since it’s just a cameo, I figured that I could update it when the post on the film is finished . . .

But to make up for it, here’s a YouTube clip of the entire cameo.

Dark Passage – 1947

Bacall Dark Passage

Bacall plays Irene Jansen, the woman who mysteriously seems to have a personal stake in an escaped convict (Bogart) and houses him after he alters his appearance with plastic surgery while on the run. As the story goes, Jack Warner and the critics were pretty upset that Bogart spends the first hour of this film hidden behind bandages. Not only that, but there are a number of first-person shots from his eyes, so all we hear is his voice over.

As for me? I can’t complain. From my original post on the film here:

“Make no mistake about it, this is Bacall’s movie to make or break. She’s gotten a lot of flak for not being able to stand on her own without Bogart when it comes to many of her non-Bogart films, but here she shows that with the right director, she can work wonders. Much of the first hour of this film is spent in close-ups on her remarkable face as we see from Bogart’s first-person point of view, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen whether she’s talking, moving, or just sitting perfectly still. This woman is stunning, and when given a chance, she knew how to combine her looks and her acting talent to truly command the big screen. If you’re a Bacall fan at all, this one’s definitely worth a look.”

Key Largo – 1948

Bacall Key Largo

Their last big screen film together, Bacall plays Nora Temple, the widow of Bogart’s recently deceased army buddy. Not the deepest of roles compared to their other four major pairings, but Bacall is strong, defiant, and just soft enough to care for the stranger who has stumbled across her doorstep. The real life chemistry between Hollywood’s greatest couple carries over well into the film, and the close ups they share together are worth the price of admission alone.

The overall film is so great, and with Lionel Barrymore and Edward G. Robinson as costars, it’s a wonderful way for Bogie and Bacall to finish their time together on the silver screen. Bacall’s relationship with her surrogate father, Barrymore, speaks volumes to her subtleties as an actress as she’s able to convey so much affection through simple touches and caring looks.

That shot above where Bacall casually brushes back her hair as she helps Bogart on the docks is such an authentically small moment that it melts my heart every single time. How is it possible that she seems even younger here than she did four years earlier in To Have and Have Not? How amazing is it that Bogart got to close out his onscreen relationships with two of his greatest costars (Bacall and Robinson) in one film?

If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and call in sick tomorrow. You can read my original post on the film here.

Producer’s Showcase – “The Petrified Forest” – 1955

pet From my original post here:

“Nearly twenty years after Humphrey Bogart made Duke Mantee his breakout role on the silver screen, he returned to the small screen to reprise the gangster one more time for the TV show, Producer’s Showcase. Stepping in for Bette Davis is Lauren Bacall as Gabby, and Henry Fonda plays Alan Squier, the role made famous by Leslie Howard.”

Well, to be honest, trying to step into a young Bette Davis’ shoes is all but impossible, but Bacall still does well here. She may not capture the spunk and vigor of Davis’ original love-struck teen, but Bacall does comes off as much more believable in the scenes where she talks about literature and recites poetry.

Again, it’s another wonderful instance of Bacall getting to share in a monumental moment with Bogart as he returns to the role that really notched his belt with its first major mark as a superstar in front of the world. Such an incredibly interesting experiment in the rebooting of a film, this one’s worth a look if only to say that you saw Bogie and Bacall together for the last time!

* ‘The Usual Suspects’ is an ongoing feature at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight some of Bogart’s most celebrated costars, and occasionally, it makes this writer tear up a bit when he has to write a post like this one. You can read the rest of the posts in the feature here. *

 

Key Largo – 1948

Key Largo Pic

My Review

—Fantastic—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

4 Bogie

 

 

out of 5 Bogies!

Director: John Huston

The Lowdown

A war vet (Humphrey Bogart) visits the Florida Keys to pay his respects to the wife (Lauren Bacall) and father (Lionel Barrymore) of a friend who died in combat, only to stumble upon a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) on the run just as a hurricane strikes.

What I Thought

There’s not a wrong note in this whole film. The cast is superb, and while Claire Trevor is the only actor from the film to win an Oscar, it surely wouldn’t have been a surprise if Barrymore and Robinson had at least been nominated as their performances are stand-out wonderful as well. (Fortunately or unfortunately – depending on who from this film you consider – the main competition for the Oscar race that year was another little Huston film called Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. Huston snagged Best Director and Best Screenplay for Madre, so I imagine that Trevor’s win for Best Supporting Actress here and Walter Huston’s win for Best Supporting Actor in Madre were just the icing on the cake for him.)

The real story of this film is the interplay between Bogart and Robinson. Much of Bogart’s early career was spent playing second fiddle to Robinson when Robinson was still at the peak of his stardom. Here though, the roles are reversed. Or are they? Yes, Bogart is top billed playing his oft-stoic protagonist war hero that happens along just in time to save the day and get the woman, but it’s clear that Key Largo is Robinson’s film to steal.

From the moment that he appears onscreen taking a bath, Robinson controls almost every scene throughout the rest of the picture. My wife, who is often reading or working on her computer in the background while I watch Bogart films, glanced up the moment Robinson was introduced and didn’t take her eyes off of him for the rest of the film. Afterwards, I asked her, “Like that guy? You didn’t take your eyes off of him?”

“No,” she said, “His face is weird.”

But she watched. Regardless of the fact that he possessed a face that no caricature could ever exaggerate enough, Robinson exuded charisma and raw energy out of every pore. You can’t not watch the guy when he’s on screen. Huston and Bogart give him plenty of room to work with too, letting him take center stage at almost every moment to wring out a performance that I would rank as one of his best.

It’s fun to note that the final confrontation on the boat was apparently the original ending to Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not. When Huston couldn’t think of an ending to Key Largo, Hawks offered this one and Huston took it! It gives Robinson an incredible finale to a stellar performance!

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s war vet, Frank McCloud, is essentially a rehash of a whole list of previous characters that he’s already played. A loner ex-soldier, McCloud is there to stop the bad guy and get the girl – period. It’s not colorfully written, but it’s not supposed to be. He’s there to glue together the rest of the cast that is both literally and metaphorically caught up in the middle of a storm.

Again though, if you’re going to cast a leading man that needs to be tough, brooding, and still sympathetic – can you do better than Bogart? Especially when he’s in the hands of a director like John Huston who’s going to use Bogart’s skill set to its fullest potential while making every frame that he’s in feel like an iconic image of Hollywood’s greatest star.

Is this Bogart’s best role? No. But it’s a textbook example of what a great actor can do with a stock “hero” character.

The Cast

Edward G. Robinson is a force to be reckoned with as the mobster on the run, Johnny Rocco. Playing a gangster who’s on the verge of losing his most valuable weapon – his confidence – we get to watch Robinson strut, punch, slap, yell, threaten, sweat, quiver, and cower all in just an hour and forty minutes. On the receding side of his career, this was supposedly a “thank you” role for Robinson after giving Bogart so much time to shine in their earlier collaborations together. Robinson nails it. No matter what’s going right or wrong for Rocco in any given scene, there is an underlying sense of fear present that pervades every word and action on display.

Claire Trevor plays Robinson’s girlfriend and former lounge singer, Gaye Dawn. She’s great in the role, and not surprisingly, won an Oscar for her performance as the gun moll that’s living out her last years in the bottom of a bottle while clinging to a madman who gave up on her a long time ago. One of the best behind-the-scenes stories from this film is that Director Huston sprung Trevor’s a cappella performance of “Moanin’ Low” on her the day of shooting. If true, it certainly helped give Trevor a shaky and painful performance that’ll make you cringe in the best possible way.

Lauren Bacall plays Nora Temple, the widow of Bogart’s army buddy who died in the war. Like Bogart, the role isn’t anything special, but Bacall plays it as well as anyone could. She’s strong, defiant, and just soft enough to care for the stranger who has stumbled across her doorstep. The real life chemistry between these two carries over well into the film, and the close ups they share together are worth the price of admission alone.

Lionel Barrymore plays James Temple, the wheelchair bound father of Bogart’s dead friend. Barrymore is really good here and gets plenty of opportunity to wrestle scenes away from Robinson – especially the moment he leaves his very real and necessary wheelchair in order to take a swing at the gangster. His affection for Bacall feels real as well, and it’s not hard to lose yourself over to this grieving father who’s trying to pull the right strings to get Bogart to stay on at his hotel and take care of his daughter-in-law.

Thomas Gomez, Harry Lewis, and Dan Seymour play Robinson’s gang, and they’re each wonderful in their own way. Gomez is a ton of fun as Curly, the gum chomping, wise crack spewing, henchman. Lewis plays a great “little villain” as Toots, the weaselly goon with a hair trigger. And perhaps my favorite is Seymour as Angel. After To Have and Have Not and Casablanca, I need to add him to the list of Usual Suspects. His parts are never huge, but he’s got a great face and a wonderful presence for a character actor.

Classic Bogie Moment

Look at how Huston introduces Bogart into the film even though his back is initially set to the camera!!! Great shot. Great use of a mirror. A simple scene that was probably much more complicated to block than it looks!

Bogart Classic Key Largo

The Bottom Line

Come for the Bogie and Bacall. Stay for the Robinson and Barrymore. You won’t be disappointed.