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Stream On: Tall tales and true from Hurricane Alley–‘The Perfect Storm’ and ‘Key Largo’

By on June 9, 2022

On the Outer Banks of North Carolina we know that nature is not to be trifled with when it comes to storms. Man himself is also not to be trifled with, especially during storms.

THE PERFECT STORM (Official site)

/Amazon /Prime Video /Streaming /Trailer /2000 /PG13

In October 1991 I had just moved to the Outer Banks, to a house in south Nags Head that overlooked the ocean (one of only two occupied households in the area at the time). During the second or third night, we had a visit from the Nags Head police, the officers strongly suggesting that we gather what important belongings we could and follow them to the fire station. There we spent a few nights on cots, with a few dozen others, while the Halloween Storm lashed the OBX with intermittent rain, but terrible winds, even during sunny periods.

When we made it back to the house, we found the 10-foot dune between our street and the ocean leveled, and three feet of fresh wet sand around the houses. In the fire house we had heard that the ocean breached Highway 158 in Kitty Hawk as it attempted to join up with the Currituck Sound.

Friends from back up north wrote, enclosing national newspaper clippings about Outer Banks houses that had fallen into the ocean (I recall that three had) and saying they hoped ours wasn’t among them.

In 1997 Sebastian Junger wrote a book about the storm, which was in fact a part of the system also known as the 1991 Perfect Storm, which Wolfgang Peterson turned into a movie in 2000 that told the true story of the Andrea Gail out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, a fishing boat caught out at sea in the mess.

“The fog’s just lifting, you throw off your bow line, you throw off your stern—you head out to South Channel past Rocky Neck … Ten Pound Island, past Niles Pond where I skated as a kid—and you blow your air horn and throw a wave to the lighthouse keeper’s kid on Thatcher’s Island … then the birds show up, black-backs and herring gulls, big dump ducks—the sun hits you, head North, open up to 12, you’re steaming now, the guys are busy, you’re in charge—you know what? You’re a god-damn sword-boat captain, is there anything better in the world?”

Halloween, 1991. Captain Billy Tine (George Clooney) loved his life; he was, as they say around here without irony, living the dream. But he’s had a poor season, and is determined to take a last chance before the end of it. He takes his crew out of Gloucester past their usual fishing grounds on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, leaving a developing tropical storm behind them. Initially unsuccessful, they head to the Flemish Cap, where their luck greatly improves. After amassing thousands of pounds of fish, the ice machine breaks down; the only way to sell their catch before it spoils is to hurry back to shore.  However, between Andrea Gail and Gloucester is a confluence of two powerful weather fronts and a hurricane, which the crew underestimates.

The Perfect Storm was a box office success. On its opening weekend, it debuted with $42 million ahead of Sony’s The Patriot and eventually brought in over $182.6 million in the United States, and $146.1 million around the world to a total of $328.7 million worldwide.


KEY LARGO

/Amazon /Prime Video /Streaming /Trailer /1948 /NR

Of course, the most dangerous thing to mankind is mankind. And mixing in hurricanes doesn’t help at all.

In Manteo’s Shallowbag Bay Marina I saw a catamaran out of Key Largo, one of the islands in the coral cay archipelago off of Florida, and the setting of John Huston’s 1948 claustrophobic ouragan noir (hurricane noir) suspenser.

Army veteran Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) arrives at the Hotel Largo, visiting the family of George Temple, a friend who served under him and was killed in the WWII Italian campaign several years before. He meets with George’s widow Nora (Lauren Bacall), and George’s father James (Lionel Barrymore), who owns the hotel. Because the winter vacation season has ended and a hurricane is approaching, the hotel has only six guests: dapper Toots, boorish Curly, stone-faced Ralph, servant Angel, attractive but aging alcoholic Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor), and a sixth man who remains secluded in his room. The visitors claim to be in the Keys for fishing but are essentially trapped in the hotel during the storm.

While preparing the hotel for the hurricane, Frank, Nora and James are interrupted by Sheriff Ben Wade and his deputy Sawyer, who are searching for the Osceola brothers, a pair of fugitive Seminole Indians. But the sixth guest is Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson, The Stranger), a gangster exiled to Cuba, who is awaiting his Miami contacts in order to conclude a deal.

Rocco’s gang discover Deputy Sawyer looking about and capture him. Rocco shoots Sawyer, and his men the body out on a rowboat in the approaching storm and drop it in the ocean. Rocco then attempts to force Frank, who is a skilled seaman, to take him and his henchmen back to Cuba on the small hotel boat.

Claire Trevor won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the film earned $3,219,000 domestically and $1,150,000 foreign (which would equal a total of around $35,364,000 today). Thar she blows!


(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

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