Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Virtues of Key Largo

So the City Library downtown has started this Science Movie Night series and I went to my first one last night.  Brilliant.  They happen on the 2nd Tuesday of each month and apparently this was the 3rd installment, and hopefully not that last (why aren't more listed on the website, City Library??).
They show a film relating to something scientific and then have a lecture/Q+A session following, or show a Hollywood classic and then give a tie-in lecture.  The one we attended was the latter; we watched one of my favorites, Key Largo, and then talked about hurricanes!!

Have you seen Key Largo? Have you been to the Florida Keys or experienced a hurricane?
I saw the film when I was younger.  I wonder if that is where my crushes on older (often dead) silver screen legends originated...? [the list includes Bogey, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable...]  Anyhow, I loved those black and white dramatic movies, and they are wonderful because children can watch them (I devoured them like cotton candy), and shortly thereafter we visited the Florida Keys in real life !! And I absolutely loved Key Largo.  I remember the bewildering and thrilling sensation of taking that concrete stretch of road out there, with ocean on either side.  What a unique archipelago it is, and a striking setting for the post-WWII gangster oriented Key Largo.

Released in 1948, Bogart plays a character that is the shadow of Rick in Casablanca--the disillusioned yet moral individual.  There is even a line in Largo that is the same as Rick's infamous "I stick my neck out for nobody!"  He got a bit typecast I'd say, but it is glorious nonetheless.  Though I would argue that Edward Robinson's Johnny Rocco steals the show, tediously bullying everyone else through the windy, wet night.
Lionel Barrymore's old man Temple, the crippled but scrappy geezer, seems like a hackneyed role but I absolutely adore him in it and I think he helped established that character mold.


This was the last film of 4 made between married luminaries Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
John Huston, oh my beloved John Huston who directed several of Bogey's films and starred in many others, took a loosely sketched play and turned it into this wonder.
It put the archipelago of Key Largo on the map and basically created the tourist industry there, ex nihilo.
This is film noir at its best--black and white tension, WWII context, guns and whispers, men being men and women appreciating them for it. 

Claire Trevor's abused lush gangster's moll role is sensational. It is no wonder she claimed the Oscar for it!  

These people are just so fun to watch.  And I love that it feels somewhat like a stage production. I was so engrossed I forgot to take some fun photos of my first time seeing this flick on the actual big screen, and ended up gnawing on my fingernails in anxiety instead, munching on pumpkin seeds.It is taut and suspenseful, and the sweaty restlessness reminds me of another favorite, Twelve Angry Men.

The sultry heat that is palpable through the screen, constant background murmur of pouring rain, and shadows that make you squint in apprehension.  All with the backdrop of a howling wind and threatening hurricane to heighten tensions and emphasize the confinement of this unique house (hotel?) arrest.

And the hotel is exactly what a spic-and-span but off-the-beaten-path 1940s deep sea fishing hotel on the coast should be.  That decor!! It made me want to decorate my entire house like that (inspiration post to come!!).

Eli had never seen it before and he absolutely loved it.  As he put it, it is one of the few old movies that he could follow all the way through, whereas others are such low quality/confusing dialogue/slow pacing that he loses interest or doesn't grasp the significance.  I get it.  A lot of old movies can be dull, especially when we're accustomed to random explosions in our modern theaters.

Afterward a severe storm expert from the University of Utah spoke about that true and false representations of hurricanes in the movie and taught us a few things about hurricanes in general.

Then we were bustled out of the library because it was closed.
I love this library.  Especially the glass ceiling.  It feels like a modern version of Alexandria or ancient Rome or something, with those proud stone arcades.  It feels almost open to the elements.  This is the second time I'd been there at night after closing (the first time I dind't take any pictures). I love being in the library after closing.  It feels like that episode of Arthur  where they are locked in the library, and reminds me of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler (remember that book, when that brother and sister are living in the Met??).
Sorry for the low-quality pics, it was dark (obviously) and I had to lighten these.

The hanging sculpture in the center is a human head created out of butterfly-like open texts.

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