Just how much can a man take? Just how long can a man compromise with his ideals before he rears up on his launches and starts shooting? Those are questions of extraordinary vitality in a world which seems to contain no ideals worth shooting or dying for. Maxwell Anderson apparently believes there still are a few left. To prove it he has written a play called "Key Largo" which tells the saga of a young idealist who broke with his faith to live,--and returned to it to die.
While the heroics of the last scene are enough to make any present-day cynic writhe, it cannot be denied that Mr. Anderson throws down the gauntlet with conviction and carries the waning torch of idealism high and haughtily. As such, the play warrants consideration from cynics and believers alike. Of course, stretching the Anderson thesis a point further, one can see more than a slight tinge of whooping up the Allied cause in the present war and a plea for U.S. intervention. This facet of the play's "message", if taken seriously, would probably make almost anyone writhe. But the idea is only vaguely implied.
"Key Largo" is a play with an axe to grind. Plot and cast are subordinate to the grinding. So is the entertainment value. But with such men as McClintic, Mielziner, and Muni at the helm of the production, the element of entertainment is far from gone. McClintic and Mielziner are up to standard,--that is praise enough. As for Paul Muni, he's been sun-bathing out in the wilderness of California far too long. He belongs on the stage. He belongs in front of an audience he can feel and which in turn can feel the dynamite of his personality. His performance was magnificent.