But this bittersweet meeting is made even more bitter when a gang of mobsters led by Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) decides to take up residence in the hotel. All hell breaks loose when a hurricane hits and traps them all for the duration, pitting Bogart against Robinson in a silver screen titan throwdown.
Edward G. Robinson is dapper and indomitable playing exiled mobster Johnny Rocco as if he was Napoleon, slapping women, taunting old men and chomping lustily on a cigar. Lionel Barrymore is the most boisterous invalid to ever roll across the screen and he lets loose at Rocco with both barrels, making you wonder if he could get out of that wheelchair what he would do.
Key Largo is a fun assemblage of performers at the top of their games portraying people who "ain't what they used to be"—as worn-out as the threadbare lobby of the Largo Hotel.
Bacall, as former first lady Margaret Kramer, has little to do but gaze adoringly at Lemmon and occasionally crack wise, but she uses all her star power to communicate the brittle dignity forced upon Presidents' wives.
Werth: Speaking of brittle dignity, I wonder if Nancy Reagan reads Film Gab...
Wise: Also along for the ride are Dan Aykroyd, Wilford Brimley, Sela Ward, Bradley Whitford, and Ester Rolle.
Werth: It sounds like the cast for a very special episode of Murder, She Wrote.
Wise: The credits are definitely chock-full of the usual Hollywood suspects, and the script provides each of them with a spicy morsel of scenery to chew. And while it's not exactly Chekhov—
Werth: Is Chekov from Star Trek in it too?
Wise: —the film is one of the few attempts at imagining life after the White House and the kinds of humiliations ex-Presidents face as they attempt to both keep their dignity and find purpose in the dénouement of their careers. Of course, those small tragedies are each played for laughs—and often, the broadest, most inane yuks possible—but the film does question the afterlife of public service and the possibility of redemption after a lifetime of political compromises.
Werth: Speaking of lifetimes—thank you, Lauren Bacall, for a lifetime of movie memories!
Wise: - and bring Nancy Reagan next week for leftover cake and more Film Gab.