John Huston Bosley Crowther - Essay

Bosley Crowther

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In making this screen translation of an old Maxwell Anderson play ["Key Largo"] … Director John Huston has certainly done a great deal to tighten and speed a still overcrowded story of the forces of evil versus good. He has dropped out a lot of prior build-up, thrown away some complexities and avoided the final fatalism which Mr. Anderson always seems to indulge.

Now he has got a story of two strong men who come face to face in a hotel, shut down for the summer, on a sweaty Florida key….

With remarkable filming and cutting, Mr. Huston had notably achieved a great deal of interest and tension in some rather static scenes—and scenes, too, that give the bald appearance of having been written for the stage. Though largely confined to a few rooms, he kept people on the move and has used an intrusive hurricane for some slam-bang melodramatic effects….

But the script prepared by Mr. Huston and Richard Brooks was too full of words and highly cross-purposed implications to give the action full chance. Talk—endless talk—about courage and the way the world goes gums it up. And the simple fact is that much of it is pompous and remote. Also the presentation of old-time gangsterism in this light shows up its obsolescence.

Bosley Crowther, "'Key Largo'," in The New York Times (© 1948 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 17, 1948 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1939–1948, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1970, p. 2267).