6.6/10
1,171
19 user 4 critic

The Key (1958)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, War | 6 June 1958 (UK)
During World War II, successive tugboat British Captains sent on dangerous salvage missions pass-on the key to a home-port apartment, where a lonely Swiss-Italian young war-widow lives.

Director:

Carol Reed

Writers:

Jan de Hartog (novel), Carl Foreman
Reviews
Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William Holden ... Captain David Ross
Sophia Loren ... Stella
Trevor Howard ... Captain Chris Ford
Oskar Homolka ... Captain Van Dam (as Oscar Homolka)
Kieron Moore ... Kane
Bernard Lee ... Cmdr. Wadlow
Beatrix Lehmann ... Housekeeper
Noel Purcell ... Hotel Porter
Bryan Forbes ... First Mate Weaver
Sidney Vivian Sidney Vivian ... Grogan
Rupert Davies ... Baker
Russell Waters Russell Waters ... Sparks
Irene Handl ... Clerk
John Crawford ... American Captain
Jameson Clark Jameson Clark ... English Captain
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Storyline

During World War II, tugboats conduct what are called salvage missions, picking up disabled ships. Not well equipped with weaponry, the tugs are sitting ducks for enemy fire. As such, the crew working the tugs have precarious lives, many with deep seated emotional problems. Before the Americans join the war, ex-American military man David Ross is assigned to captain a tug for the British military. He is shown the ropes by an old friend, Captain Chris Ford. Chris currently shares a flat with a young beautiful Italian-Swiss woman named Stella, who came with the flat and who lives a reclusive life there. Chris is the latest in a long line of tugboat Captains who have lived there, each who has found another person to take over the flat and the associated looking after of Stella if anything is to happen to him. That person is given a key to the flat, the key only to be used if needed. The first in the series was Phillip Westerby, to whom Stella was to be married before Phillip was killed. ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He had the life expectancy of a match... See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 June 1958 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Stella See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Gary Cooper was Writer and Producer Carl Foreman's first choice for the lead. See more »

Goofs

Later in the movie, when they show "the key" in William Holden's hand, the key is smooth, with no cuts. It wouldn't open any lock, anywhere. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Captain Chris Ford: Say, can you tell me where Cmdr. Wadlow's office is?
Captain Van Dam: Has America come into the war?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in McCullin (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

The First Noel
(uncredited)
Traditional
Sung by a vocal group at the air raid shelter
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The girl in the flat
25 August 2005 | by jotix100See all my reviews

Carol Reed's "The Key" is a forgotten film, or so it seems. It was a rare occasion when it showed up the other night on TCM. This film presents a different side of WWII that many of us are not aware of. We are given an account of England's way of rescuing ships that have been attacked at sea and the courageous men that commanded those small vessels to bring the damaged ones to safe haven. The film is based on a novel by the Dutch writer Jan de Hartog, with a screen play by Carl Foreman. The film was photographed in white and white by Oswald Morris and has an interesting music score by Malcom Arnold.

The film capitalizes on the rescue operations, which are reproduced in vivid detail by Mr. Reed and his crew. The ocean settings have a poetic look, at times. The story is set before America's entry into the war and we are introduced to David Ross, who is assigned to the rescuing team. Ross happens to know one of the captains in the operation, Chris Ford, who in turn, takes an interest in him and hands him a duplicate of the key to his flat. Little does Ross knows what awaits him there.

Trevor Howard is excellent as Capt. Ford. This actor showed an inner integrity no matter what role he played. Sophia Loren is Stella, the mysterious girl who lives in the flat and seems to bring out emotions from all the men that share the apartment. At the same time, she seems to be a jinx to all the men that she comes in contact with. Ms. Loren gives a subtle performance. William Holden, is also effective as Capt. Ross. Bernard Lee, Oskar Homolka and Kieron Moore do excellent work under Mr. Reed's direction.

"The Key" is an interesting look at the way the war was fought at sea and Mr. Reed makes a compelling account of those days.


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