The Key (1934 film)

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The Key
The Key film.jpg
Poster of The Key film
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Robert R. Presnell, Sr.
Written by Laird Doyle
R. Gore Brown
Jocelyn Lee Hardy
Starring William Powell
Edna Best
Music by Allie Wrubel (composer)
Mort Dixon (composer)
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Edited by Thomas Richards
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • June 9, 1934 (1934-06-09) (U.S.)
Running time
71 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Key is a 1934 American Pre-Code film directed by Michael Curtiz. It was re-issued as High Peril (pre-release title Sue of Fury) in 1960.[1]

The story concerns a love set during the Irish War of Independence.


Captain Bill Tennant (William Powell) is a British officer stationed in Dublin in 1920. Tennant has a history with Norah, the wife of his friend, British intelligence officer Captain Andrew Kerr.

Tennant's first assignment is to capture a notorious Sinn Féin member, Peadar Conlan. His first attempt is a failure, and Kerr is ordered to relieve Tennant overnight. Norah is frightened by his assignment and begs him not to go. After Kerr leaves, we see a flashback to when Tennant and Norah were involved, several years before.

Kerr leads the search for Conlan. He finds and captures him. When he arrives home very late, Norah is still up, and still dressed. Tennant is also there and insists they must tell Kerr. Tennant leaves and Norah tries to explain that there was always someone else between them, and that someone was Tennant. Kerr rushes out, despite her pleadings that he'll be killed. Tennant sees him leave and goes after him.

Conlan is sentenced to hang by the British military. Shortly after, Kerr is spotted and followed. He's captured by an angry mob. When Tennant arrives at the military post the next morning, he finds Norah waiting there for news of her husband. She tells him that she no longer loves him, that he's "three years too late".

A messenger arrives from Sinn Féin. He claims to be a peacemaker, and tells the general Kerr will be released if Conlan is. But the general tells him Conlan will be hanged at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. Norah begs the general to comply, but the general refuses.

Tennant tries to bargain for Kerr's life, but is told nothing will do except the release of Conlan. He returns to HQ and, against orders, goes into the general's office, breaks into his desk, and forges a release for Conlan. Kerr is also released. The next morning the crowd celebrates Conlan's release. Tennant's forgery is discovered, and Kerr is distressed to find his friend has committed career suicide to free him. In their final meeting, Tennant tells Kerr that Norah's seeing Tennant again, coupled with Kerr's disappearance, has caused the scales to fall from her eyes, and caused her to realize she really loves her husband.



One of the writers of the film script was Captain Jocelyn Lee Hardy, a decorated veteran of World War I who had made repeated escapes from German prisoner of war camps. After the Great War Hardy served as a military intelligence officer attached to the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Irish War of Independence. He specialised in interrogating IRA prisoners and survived several attempts on his life by the Irish Republican Army.[2][3]


  1. ^ "Details". Irish Film & TV Research Online - Trinity College Dublin. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  2. ^ Hopkinson, Michael (2002). The Irish War of Independence. Gill & Macmillan. p. 91.
  3. ^ Cairo Gang website,; accessed September 13, 2015.

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