The Key Largo hypothesis: Brooks and Huston set the noir context


My re-discovery of Key Largo (1948) unwound in two parts, beginning on an apparently well-known terrain of technique and visible content, but progressing to something else entirely as I fell into the rabbit hole of previously unseen discourses.

Most of what I have to say is from inside that rabbit hole, but it is a journey that may be more explicable if I begin with my own starting point, which was to look again at Key Largo, with a view to adding a critique to my small collection of film noir commentaries.

A re-enounter

Like Dark Passage, Key Largo had struck me as slow and ponderous the first few times I saw it in the 1970s and ’80s, but something else about it grew on me. Perhaps the combination of Edward G Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, or the broodingly oppressive atmospherics simulating the arrival and passing of a Hurricane, which rang more intimately true for me after the first tropical cyclone I experienced in the far north of Western Australia during the early 1980s.

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Managing classification as Stalinism: Broughton spells out the doctrine

Broughton, V. (2004). Essential Classification. New York: Schuman.

General management of classifications: The biggest classifications, such as DDC and LCC, have a considerable machine behind them that can accommodate the general running of the classification, its publication, the dissemination of information to users, the promotion of the scheme, the creation of training materials, the provision of bibliographic services, and research into the theory and applications of classification. The availability of all these I secondary features can make the classification more attractive to the end-user and greatly enhance its usefulness. All of them additionally serve to create a sense of community among users and to promote loyalty to the system – they’re all good public relations exercises (p. 284).

This is an astonishing piece of rationalising the perpetuation of systems of alienating information from a public that owns the information objects or the classification systems themselves. The transparent aim here is to make such publics complicit in their own alienation. It gets better: Newspeak and historical revisionism is next up.

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