Siren Song – Ladies of Film Noir, Part 9: Claire Trevor in Key Largo (1948)

There may be no more heartrending performance in all of film noir history than Claire Trevor’s turn as Edward G. Robinson’s alcoholic girlfriend, former singer “Gaye Dawn,” in Key Largo (1948, dir. John Huston). In a lesser actress’s hands, the character might have been a clichéd lush without any redeeming qualities, but Brooklyn-born Trevor imbues her role with a combination of pathos and a tough determination to stay strong even as Robinson repeatedly mocks her and bullies her into submission. Perhaps Trevor’s most notable scene in the film is when she sings the jazz/blues standard “Moanin’ Low,” hoping to receive a drink in return. Trevor isn’t the female lead in the film – that would be Lauren Bacall, who co-stars with husband Humphrey Bogart – but Trevor’s moment in the spotlight, singing lyrics that echo her pitiable situation, is one of the highlights of the film and helped her win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

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