“And we have a really cool item, a check from Bogart to President Truman,” said Suzanne Holmquist.
Stephen Bogart said the $45 check, which Truman returned, was for a bet over the sex of Bogie’s first kid: “Truman bet I would be a boy and my father bet I would be a girl.”
Just eight years later, Bogie died of cancer of the esophagus at 57. But unlike most of his contemporaries, Bogart has remained “part of the pop culture conversation,” film critic Leonard Maltin said. “Perhaps because he also was known for his great romance with Lauren Bacall.”
Maltin says he has been a Bogie fan since he saw Casablanca as a teenager in the late ’60s. “There was a big Bogart revival, which seemed to tie into the counterculture movement of the era,” Maltin said. “He seemed the perfect anti-hero.”
Maltin says Casablanca remains his all-time favorite film.
In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart the No. 1 male movie star of all time. His big break came in 1936 in The Petrified Forest, of which the film festival will premiere the digitally remastered Blu Ray version.
Other special events include Miami-based documentary film director Billy Corben showing new parts of his Showtime television series Cocaine Cowboys.
And Jack Huston, who plays a war vet turned gangster on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, will accept the festival’s first award on behalf of his late grandfather, director Huston, who spoke at Bogart’s funeral.
“Huston was bit of a maverick in Hollywood, so he and Bogart shared that mindset,” Maltin said.
Sometime after Key Largo became a hit, the Caribbean Club erected a billboard that said: “THIS IS IT the Birthplace of the Warner Bros. Great Movie, Key Largo — Good Food * Hotel Rooms * Bar * Boats.” Upper Keys historian Jerry Wilkinson said the part about the birthplace was true.
Over the years, many bar patrons and travel writers also heard stories from Caribbean Club owners and staff about the movie being filmed there. One enduring tale is that Warner Bros. brought airboats and set up scaffolding here. “So the airboats could make hurricane effects to blow the rubber-looking palm tree around,” said Kathy Whitehurst, who with her two siblings inherited the bar from their parents.
Added Robby Whitehurst, Kathy’s brother: “I’m sure what happened is the Hollywood people came to Key Largo and with no air conditioning and the mosquitoes and not much to do, they went back to Hollywood. Can you imagine what Lauren Bacall would have thought? It was more for gangsters than actors back then.”
While the stories are fun for tourists, they likely are not true, Wilkinson said. “I have not found a single spec of information verifiable that they did any shooting there. It would have been a big deal in 1948.”
But looking out at Blackwater Sound from the Caribbean Club, now a rugged bikers’ bar, it is easy to imagine a brewing hurricane that forces mobsters to hole up in a rundown motel, where they take WW II veteran Frank McCloud (Bogart) prisoner, along with his late war buddy’s widow (Bacall). Of course, Bogart saves the day.
“He was in Key Largo in Hollywood terms,” Maltin said. “A little movie magic.”