Last week I splurged on films, providing the sure-to-offend “top best” crime movies and TV lists. Both Atlantic City and Key Largo were honorable mentions, so I’ll trot them out again as a potential double feature for some rainy Friday night. What we have in this pairing are portraits of old gangsters. Lou Pascal, in Atlantic City is an aging gangster who remembers being a big-time gangster and Johnny Rocco, in Key Largo who thinks he still is. Both are wrong. An accompanying similarity is the fact that both movies use their geographical locations as key characters in the drama. One more thing they have in common — both are also based on plays by lauded American playwrights.
Atlantic City, the old Atlantic City that is, is withering away, with, as it turns out, symbolic appropriateness. Louis Malle’s sensitive and somewhat quirky film released in 1980 was based on a script by the highly regarded American playwright, John Guare. Burt Lancaster’s Lou Pascal was fading as fast as the old neighborhoods he inhabits, but he is given a chance to be the person he always thought he was. It is a poignant portrayal in a film that received Academy Award nominations in the top five categories — winning none. Viewers will get a chance to see the pre-Trump and legendary East Coast city that no longer exists as well as seeing an unusual and unusually good film that also stars Susan Sarandon.
For the second feature — how could you go wrong with tough guys Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart? Key Largo (1948) was the fifth time they performed together and apparently their star status (relative to each other) in film advertisements was settled by Bogart’s name being to the left on posters and Robinson’s occupying a higher position in the middle. In the film, Johnny Rocco and his equally nasty crew take over a small hotel in Florida’s Key Largo, where they are threatened by a rival gangster, the police, one of the hostages and a hurricane. Directed by John Huston and based on Maxwell Anderson’s play, the cast includes Edward G. Robinson (as Johnny Rocco), Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. Trevor, called the Queen of Noir (says Wikipedia) was nominated three times for an Academy Award and won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Rocco’s alcoholic and abused girlfriend.
The two fading gangsters couldn’t be more different. But we need some sort of tough-guy drink to accompany the double feature. Another question to consider: What should you drink during a hurricane? Rum may not be appropriate for New Jersey, but remember, you’ll be heading for the sultry Keys.