…there’s that part of me that thinks it absurd to want to associate your beautiful seaside town with a film so bitter and violent. “Come for the mobsters, stay for the hurricanes!” David Fincher’s Se7en is also a widely popular and influential thriller, but I can’t see building a tourism campaign around it.
Nevertheless, Key Largo was a huge hit—the final pairing of Bogie and Bacall, Eddie Robinson at his dirtiest, Claire Trevor in an Oscar-winning supporting role, and Lionel Barrymore proving he could do more than just eat scenery. At the helm you have John Huston, one of classical Hollywood’s great masters.
So, while it may be a brutal film noir about a vicious gangster who takes some innocent people hostage, and the world-weary man who stops him, this is Golden Age Hollywood at its finest.
The only problem with the people of Key Largo wanting to capitalize on the connection to Key Largo was, Key Largo the movie existed in the real world and Key Largo the place didn’t.
To explain this, let’s jump back in time to the 1920s Florida land boom—the one satirized in the Marx Brothers’ The Cocoanuts, if you’d prefer to keep your history framed in reference to movies.