See a great movie made from a great book for a great cause

ninety_two_in_the_shade1My husband and I have a long-running, never-to-be-resolved argument about which Tom McGuane novel set in Key West is better. He likes Panama, I prefer 92 in the Shade. But there’s no dispute about which was made into a better movie, mainly because, to my knowledge, they never made a movie of Panama. The movie version of 92 in the Shade, however, is not only an entertaining film with a knockout cast (Peter Fonda! Warren Oates! Harry Dean Stanton! Elizabeth Ashley! Margot Kidder!). It’s essential viewing for anyone interested in Key West’s recent history, especially of that really really interesting era when the Navy was leaving, the new bridges and water line weren’t here yet and marijuana smuggling was completely out of hand.

McGuane himself wrote the screenplay AND directed (no comment here on whether that’s a good idea) and lots of it was shot in Key West. In other words, a great document of classic 1970s Key West. Plus an entertaining movie.

It was distributed on VHS — unfortunately the copy at the Monroe County Library seems to have gone missing — but has not, to my knowledge been released on DVD. You can, however, see the film right here in Key West with a bunch of other Key Westers this Saturday, March 28 — in a special showing that will benefit Heron Peacock Supported Living. VIP tickets are $60; regular admission is $25 and it all takes place at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort. For tickets or more information call Sherry Read at 305-294-2648 or email her at sherrykw2 at


1 Comment

Filed under fiction, movies

One response to “See a great movie made from a great book for a great cause

  1. Matt Dukes Jordan

    Hey, Nan,

    I remember Mark saying to me that he feels Panama is the better novel, and, as I recall, a better portrait of Key West. Both that and 92 in the Shade are great Key West novels, but I agree with you, I prefer 92 in the Shade. I was just rereading it the other day (March 201o). It’s a strange novel in that it’s hard to know why Skelton is so accepting and passive when it comes to dealing with Dance’s threats. But, that aside, there are so many funny insights about American culture. The novel opens with “Nobody knows, from sea to shining sea, why we are having all this trouble with our republic…” The novel was (and is), I believe, an effort to provide some insight. The film is as you said, a great document of the time and how Key West looked, opening with a scene in the old Cuban Club (was that what it was called), in the empty ballroom… Of course, even with McGuane directing, it is a different story from the book (films tend to reduce the book to the plot to some extent, leaving behind all the interior ruminations)… And there were two endings: one with Dance shooting Skelton (isle of bones? a foreshadowing of his death — his name suggests he’s already a skeleton?)…. and, apparently in an effort to find an audience, the film was re-released with a happy ending… The real ending in the book is Olie Slatt sort of losing it… and, last line: “He was heading for A1A.” That is, he was trying get out of there, as though it was too crazy down there…. (Just read some of Jim Harrison’s memoir and he talks about Key West, and it’s well worth reading… and he said that it was crazier than anywhere… ) (Tenn Williams said in a letter when he first arrived that it was more colorful than Frisco, New Orleans… or Sante Fe ! ) Panama seems to be more about the price of fame, of becoming a spectacle and losing one’s authentic artistic self, a fascinating story… and interesting in relation to how that had happened to some extend to McGuane, esp. as he became more involved with Hollywood and was a director… etc. In Harrison’s memoir, he writes about his involvement with Hollywood, mentioning how he would be totally blitzed in LA, staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel in a bungalow (says he began to hate the color pink – the color of the hotel – after being holed up there) and how there was a meeting in his living room (of the bungalow) with Ovitz and 2 other big shots and Harrison was so fried from a night of drinking etc that he just stretched out on the floor and closed his eyes as the other guys had the meeting. I suppose Panama is talking about a similar lack of connection between one’s goals as and artist and what one becomes as one is drawn into the Hollywood scene…. 92 in the Shade has a different theme… and I it seems more purely about Key West…

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