Claire Trevor was an actress maybe not so well known as her contempories. Such stars as Sylvia Sydney and Lauren Bacall ,with whom she shared the screen in two very famous films , were the ones with all the glamour. For those that followed her career she was the queen of film noir and co starred with many of the great gangsters of the cinema including Humphrey Bogart and Edward.G. Robinson. Her films include ‘Dead End’ for which she was nominated as best supporting actress and ‘Key Largo’ for which she actually won. Her role in Key Largo was as a washed up alchoholic gangsters moll hiding out with her phsycopath boyfriend and his cronies in a guest house during a hurricane. The scene in which her man, Edward. G. forces her to sing for a drink is indeed heart wrenching. ‘Key Largo’ was not made until 1948,however, and Claire had been a rising star since 1937 when she was nominated for an oscar for ‘Dead End’. In this film she played a prostitute dying of consumption who happened to be the girlfriend of one ‘Baby Face Martin’ played by Humphrey Bogart. A mean character who wasn’t even loved by his own mother. In 1935 she had co starred in ‘Dante’s Inferno with Spencer Tracy. Another film dealing with the dark side of life.
In the 1940s she made some pretty memorable film noirs in which she literally smouldred her way through the dialogue and through the twists and turns of devious plot lines. Notably ‘Murder My Sweet’ in 1944 with Dick Powell. Trevor plays a character named Velma Valenta the ex girlfriend of ex con who has since married a wealthy older man and changed her name to Helen. Velma is planning to kill for his money of course. There is definitely something in the name,Velma Valenta, that suggests arch villainy on a grand scale. In 1947 she made ‘Born To Kill’ about a psychopathic couple who really get off on their crimes. Seems to me there have been a few remakes of this one. On a lighter note she made westerns too with John Wayne including ‘Stage Coach’ and ‘Texas’ with Glen Ford and William Holden as well as a couple of romantic comedies including ‘Second Honeymoon’ with Loretta Young and Tyrone Power.
‘Key Largo’ may have been her career highlight with the oscar and all that adulation but it certainly was not the only one. She went on to make ‘Borderline’ in 1950 with Fred Macmurray in which she played an undercover LAPD agent on the trail of a drug cartel in Mexico and a brave passenger aboard a troubled flight in one of the very first Hollywood disaster movies ‘The High And The Mighty’ again with John Wayne which strangely also dealt with a hijack. Seems that even though Claire Trevor was mostly B picture material she certainly worked with the cream of the crop and was well loved and respected within the industry.
© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 3/7/2014