Friday, May 18, 2012

The Key (1934)



“Norah has been in love with a glamorous memory.”

            Unfortunately the Norah William Powell’s character refers to is not the fabulous Nora Charles. Yeah my balloon is busted too. The Key was made after his pairing with the other Nora not for MGM but his old studio Warner Bros. The film is a mix of romance and war. Sometimes this mix in the plotline works and sometimes it falls flat and dull. In this case it falls flat and dull.
            In 1920s Ireland the country was still under the rule of the British Empire. The IRA was vigorously fighting for home rule and the end of British rule. Captain Andy Kerr is part of the British army that has been sent to find the rebels, break up their groups and bring them in. During a raid one of his men are killed.
            To help with against the Irish is another British captain Bill Tennant (Powell). He comes to Ireland on orders. He meets with his superior who asks him about his time in Balkans. Apparently Bill got into some trouble with a Russian girl but before the problem could reach a court he was excused and promoted to captain. His superior tells him to be careful or he might come out decorated again.
            Bill moves into an apartment with another British officer. He hears a woman singing and playing the piano. He stays in the hallways listening to her and when she is done he yells for an encore. The apartment above belongs to Andy and his wife Norah. Andy comes out to see who is yelling but he is not mad when he sees the yeller is Bill since the two of them were old friends. Andy brings Bill upstairs to meet his wife. As soon as Bill and Norah meet it is obvious they knew each other before this meeting. Not long after the introduction Andy has to leave on assignment leaving his wife and friend alone. Norah and Bill discuss how they knew each other three years ago but he left. He explains that he joined the army and did not want to settle down. He adds that he still loves her though.
            The next day on assignment Bill and his men are shot at by Irish snipers. His superior has a feeling it is a man named Peadar Conlin the head of the IRA. That night Andy is sent out to find Conlin. Norah does not have a good feeling about her husband leaving. Bill was there when Andy leaves and once again he and Norah are left alone. They remember back to when they were first in love. Bill sees that Norah has not been able to let her love for him go. Andy captures Conlin in his headquarters. When he comes home later he sees that Norah is fully dressed then Bill comes out from another room. They explain to him that they were once in love. Andy had always known there was another man Norah loved but he never knew until then. Upset Andy runs out in the rain.
            Andy has not come home since he went out. Norah confesses to Bill that he is three years too late for her to love him like she once did and that he truly loves Andy. She is worried for him since he has not been back. They learn that Andy was captured by the IRA and held as a hostage for the release of Conlin. The General will not make the switch. Bill sees how much Norah loves Andy and decides to help. He sneaks into the General’s office and forges release papers for Conlin. Someone working in the office gives a call to the superior to let them know Bill was there.
            The next day Conlin has been released and so was Andy. The General puts two and two together and has Bill thrown in jail for three years for what he did. Bill does not care though he saved his friend and helped his former love.
            I do not know whether it was because I watched this film at like one in the morning or because I was falling asleep at the time since I had come home from a long day of work but I was bored with it. The story was so dull. It started off a bit light and tried to keep that going mixed with the drama and it did not work. The romance angle sure it was the central part to the story but it was a load of bull.
            The Key is only worth seeing for William Powell who always gives a great performance and for the direction by Michael Curtiz. Besides Casablanca this is the best directed film by Curtiz I have seen so far. The cinematography is awesome in some night scenes.