The Key Largo Movie Helped Put
This Island on the Map

"Hold your course...You're headed straight for Key Largo...Key Largo."

Key Largo at Dusk
Key Largo at Dusk

Since those words were first spoken to promote the 1948 Key Largo movie, innumerable boatloads of divers, vacationers, and other visitors have pointed their compasses to this long, skinny island just off Florida's mainland.

The Movie's Impact on Key Largo
The Key Largo movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall introduced Key Largo to the world, never mind that the movie itself was filmed almost exclusively in Hollywood. Only the opening shots were filmed in the Keys. As one of 1948's top movies, it put Key Largo on the map.

To capitalize on the movie's popularity, the residents of Rock Harbor--a community on the island of Key Largo--insisted that their post office be called Key Largo, and not Rock Harbor. So, on June 1, 1952 and thereafter all mail leaving that post office bore the "Key Largo" cancellation instead of "Rock Harbor."

Key Largo Post Office Heading
From Rock Harbor to Key Largo

Old Movies Reflect a Different Time
A lot of people today don't know this movie. It is, after all, over 60 years old--older than most folks walking around. It's not in hi-def and it doesn't have today's special effects, but if one looks past the 1940s black-and-white presentation and the now-outdated styles, there's a great film here--a Hollywood classic.

There's a lot to like about these old World-War-II-era movies. They reflect a different time--a time when there were real heroes. Good guys were good guys. Bad guys were bad guys. And as someone once said, "Men were men, and women were glad of it."

This was the time of "America's greatest generation."

KEY LARGO TRAILER. You can watch the two-and-one-half minute Key Largo movie trailer at . The trailer starts by showing Frank McCloud at the radio of Mr. Temple's boat. The melodramatic music and graphics are of another time, but if you can tune into that time period, this movie will provide you with some great Hollywood entertainment. To view the trailer at ZUGuide, just click the button below:

The Movie's Story and Cast
Based very loosely on the 1939 play "Key Largo" by Maxwell Anderson, the movie--directed by John Huston--paired the play's name along with a stellar cast--with top billings going to Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson.

Bogey, Bacall, and Eddie G. together in one flick? No two ways about it. That's GOT to be good.

Other well-noted cast members include Lionel Barrymore (Drew's great uncle), and Claire Trevor, famous for her bad-girl roles, and who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. As a historical note Jay Silverheels who went on to play "Tonto" on the Lone Ranger, plays a brief role of a Seminole Indian.

Shortly after the movie's beginning--the only part filmed in the Keys--former Army Major Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), a World-War-II vet, steps off the bus in Key Largo at the Largo Hotel, owned by Mr. James Temple (Lionel Barrymore), the father of Frank's old Army buddy, George Temple, who was killed in action in Italy.

Frank has drifted around since the war's end, but has come to pay his respects to his dead friend's father.

Upon arrival at the hotel, he encounters some unsavory characters who rudely tell him the place is closed. Judging from the looks of these guys--one especially with a black shirt, white tie, suspenders, and oversized fedora--they might as well have had signs around their necks, flashing "GANGSTERS...GANGSTERS...GANGSTERS."

Ostensibly, the unsavory characters are here for the fishing, but the real reason is to deliver a shipment of counterfeit currency to some Miami cohorts.

Out by the hotel's boat house, Frank meets for the first time Mr. Temple and his beautiful daughter-in-law Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), George's widow, who helps run the hotel. Nora sees Mr. Temple as a real father figure, staying on with him in Key Largo after her husband's death.

During their brief conversation, Mr. Temple invites Frank to stay at the hotel so the three of them can have time to discuss the details surrounding George's battlefield death.

A sub-plot involves the jail-break of, and a lawman search for two harmless but sometimes rowdy Seminole brothers, locked up for 30 days for getting a "little snoot full," one night in Palm Grove and starting to to reclaim Florida for the Indians.

The hotel's unsavory guests become increasingly obnoxious, openly abusing the only woman with them, a washed-up singer and lush Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor), personal play toy of yet-to-be-introduced gangster boss, Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) who's checked in under the name of "Mr. Brown."

Nora takes a phone call announcing that a hurricane is on the way, and relays the message.

When Frank, Mr. Temple, and Nora do get time to talk, Frank affirms George's heroic death, proving at the same time his close association with George by sharing with Nora and Mr. Temple details about each of them he got from George that only George would have known. As is later made known, Frank himself was the actual hero, but his story selflessly relinquishes that status to George.

As the storm begins to blow, the gangsters commandeer the hotel's telephone, pushing Nora aside in the process, and pull a gun on Frank when he goes to help Nora. Their lawless character now fully revealed, beaten and bloodied Deputy Clyde Sawyer (John Rodney) then stumbles out of the back room. Sawyer was on the premises looking for the Osceola brothers when he recognized "Mr. Brown" as the notorious gangster, Rocco.

As the storm strengthens, so do the tensions in the hotel lobby. Sawyer is killed when he grabs a gun and goes for Rocco.

You can almost feel Key Largo's stuffy, sweaty, sultry heat. The ingenious play of lights and shadows add to the film's dramatic effects.

In one scene Gaye, badly in need of an alcohol fix, sings nervously and pathetically for Rocco in a bargained exchange for a drink. After the song, Rocco refuses to live up to his part of the bargain, and Frank risks his life when he courageously and sympathetically hands Gaye a drink. (That singing scene is said to have earned Claire Trevor the academy award.)

Beads of sweat on his forehead, Rocco--the supposed tough guy--reveals his true cowardice as he gets increasingly anxious about the hurricane's fury. Reading his face, Rocco is terrified to the core as Mr. Temple talks of the horrendous deaths in the 200-mile-per-hour 1935 Key Largo Hurricane.

Windows crash into the room, lightning flashes, trees fall, the storm surge rises, then the storm subsides.

Immediately after the storm, Rocco's Miami cohorts show up at the hotel and receive the counterfeit currency. After the delivery Rocco forces Frank to pilot Mr. Temple's boat to return the gang to Cuba, where Rocco hides out, having been banished from the U.S. as an undesirable alien.

Just before they leave, Gaye, who says Frank will never make it back alive, manages to slip him a gun.

The movie's ending involves a climactic shoot out on the high seas.

So as to not spoil the film's final suspense, I'll refrain from giving away the rest of the story's details. Maybe you'll want to see it for yourself.

If so, just pop in the DVD, pop the corn in the micro-wave, and ..."Hold your course. You're headed straight for Key Largo..."


Welcome to Key Largo

A View of John Pennekamp Beach

Christ of the Abyss

SCUBA diver on a Key Largo Reef

Sign warning we play Jimmy Buffet music

A quaint Key Largo cottage

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