Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Key Largo (1948)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Key Largo (1948)

In director John Huston's crime/gangster film noir:

  • the first image of gangster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) sweating profusely in a bathtub in his Florida Keys hotel room with a rotating fan, a cigar and an iced drink
  • Rocco's boasting about the old days in Chicago and then his identification of himself as an "undesirable alien" to his group of hotel hostages, including wheelchair-bound hotel owner James Temple (Lionel Barrymore), ex-soldier WWII veteran Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), and Temple's widowed daughter-in-law Nora (Lauren Bacall): ("After living in the USA for more than 30 years, they called me an undesirable alien. Me, Johnny Rocco! Like l was a dirty Red or somethin'!")
  • the scene of Frank's wise defense of Rocco's big ego, by calling him an "emperor": ("Johnny Rocco was more than a king. He was an emperor. His rule extended over beer, slot machines, the numbers racket and a dozen other forbidden enterprises. He was a master of the fix. Whom he couldn't corrupt, he terrified. Whom he couldn't terrify, he murdered...Welcome back, Rocco. It was all a mistake. America's sorry for what it did to you"); soon after, Rocco continued to boast: ("Yeah, yeah, that's me. Sure, I was all of those things. And more! When Rocco talked, everybody shut up and listened. What Rocco said went. Nobody was big as Rocco. Be like that again, only more so. I'll be back up there one of these days, and then you're gonna really see something")
  • Frank's principled quoting of President Franklin Roosevelt's address, when asked by Rocco why he fought in the war: ("But we are not making all this sacrifice of human effort and human lives to return to the kind of a world we had after the last world war. (Thunder) We are fighting to cleanse the world of ancient evils, ancient ills")
  • the scene of James Temple struggling to get out of his wheelchair in a rage and shrieking at Rocco: "You ain't comin' back ...filth, you filth" and falling to the ground after taking a swing, and then being defended by Nora who beat on Rocco's chest and scratched his face; he forced a kiss from her, calling her a "Little wildcat"
  • the scene of Rocco's continued braggadocio, when he was being shaved with a straight-razor by Angel as he talked to the group, including Sheriff's Deputy Sawyer (John Rodney) about his powerful connections: ("So I won't get away with it, huh? How many times I heard that from dumb coppers I couldn't count....You'd give your left eye to nail me, wouldn't ya, huh? Ha, ha. You can see the headlines, can't ya? 'Local Deputy Captured Johnny Rocco'. Your picture'd be in all the papers. You might even get to tell in the newsreel how you pulled if off. Yeah. Well listen, hick, I was too much for any big city police force to handle. They tried but they couldn't. It took the United States Government to pin a rap on me. Yeah, and they won't make it stick. Why, you hick, I'll be back pulling strings to get guys elected mayor and governor before you ever get a ten buck raise. Yeah. How many of those guys in office owe everything to me? I made them. Yeah, I made 'em, just like a tailor makes a suit of clothes. I take a nobody, see? Teach him what to say, get his name in the papers. I pay for his campaign expenses. Dish out a lotta groceries and coal, get my boys to bring the voters out, and then count the votes over and over again till they added up right, and he was elected. Yeah. And what happens? Did he remember when the going got tough, when the heat was on? No, he didn't wanna. All he wanted was to save his own dirty neck....Yeah. 'Public Enemy' - he calls me! Me, who gave him his 'Public' all wrapped up with a fancy bow on it!")
  • Rocco's threats with a gun toward his hostages, especially Nora after she spit in Rocco's face: ("Nothin' to stop me from wipin' you all out!"); when his henchman advised: ("What good'll that do, boss? Forget it. Her kind's a dime a dozen."), well-dressed Toots (Harry Lewis) suggested: "I say smack her and let it go at that," while McCloud chimed in: ("That would be right for you, Toots, not for him...The Roccos don't, or they wouldn't be Roccos. No 'Toots', smacking her isn't enough for such an insult. He'd have to kill her. Then he'd have to kill the rest of us because we witnessed it. Not just Mr. Temple and me, but all the witnesses. It's kill us all or nothing. He needs you and Curly and Angel. So it'll be nothing")
Gaye Dawn's Rendition of "Moanin' Low"
Rocco: "You were rotten"
  • the memorable scene of Rocco's proposition to ex-moll Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor) to get a drink - and her desperate singing of "Moanin' Low" to hopefully earn a Scotch whiskey drink from him: ("Now you sing us your song, you can have a drink... the song, then the drink"), but was denied afterwards when he complained that her performance was awful: "You were rotten"
  • the final confrontation between Frank and Rocco on a boat bound for Cuba - when Frank shot Rocco dead
Frank's Deadly Pursuit of Rocco on Boat

Chicago Gangster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson)

Rocco's Boasting

Frank: "Johnny Rocco was more than a king..."

Wheelchair-Bound James Temple Shrieking at Rocco

Rocco Forcing a Kiss From Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall)

Scene of Rocco's Shaving

Rocco Threatening Hostages


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