The Key
by Carol Reed


UK (London) - May 28, 1958 - The Key - 121'
USA (New York City, Odeon Theater) - July 1, 1958 - The Key - 134'
West Germany - September 23, 1958 - Der Schlüsel -
France (Paris) - October 1, 1958 - La clé -
Spain - 1960 - La llave - 134' (attendance: 95)
Italy - 1959 - La chiave -

German poster American poster American poster Spanish poster


The Second World War. The United States has not yet entered the war, but David Ross, a young American, enlists in the British Royal Navy
as commander of the towboats whose job is to save ships which remain cut off following enemy attacks. On board he becomes friends with Chris Ford. Chris invites him to the apartment he shares with Stella, a girl who is alone following the death of her fiancé’. Stella lives in a state
of anxiety because she thinks that Chris too is destined to die a victim of the war. Stella’s sad premonition comes true: Chris is in fact killed
one day during an enemy machine-gun strafing. But Chris had wisely given David great proof of his friendship: the key to the house in exchange for the promise that David would protect Stella in case he should die. At first David does not want to use the key; but after having escaped serious danger, he goes to Stella and love grows between them. Stella, however, learns that David too has given the key to another man,
and, disappointed, she runs away. But David, who has miraculously survived the sinking of his ship, tracks her down and is reunited
her. (Enrico Lancia)
Story: based on the novel ‘Stella’ by Jan de Hartog.


Shepperton Studio, Borehamwood (UK)
Her Majesty's Naval Dockyard, Portland (UK)

Filming dates: October - December 1957 / April 1958

On October 18, Sophia flies with Carlo to London via Paris.


William Holden
(David Ross)
Sophia Loren (Stella)
Trevor Howard (Chris Ford)
Oscar Homolka (Commander Van Dam)
Kieron Moore (Kane)


Photography (Cinemascope):
Oswald Morris

Malcolm Arnold
Costume design:
Beatrice Dawson

Makeup Artist:

David Aylott

Hair Stylist:

Barbara Ritchie
Sophia's Stand-in:
Ljuba Otacevik / Luba Bodin

Carl Foreman and Aubrey Baring for Columbia / Open Road Productions


Due to its potentially controversial subject matter of a heroine of "loose morals," The Key was shot with two different endings: in the American version, Holden winds up the epic by catching a train on which his Sophia is fleeing from something or other. Happy ending! In Europe, Holden misses the train, and Sophia chugs off into the night with her leading man puffing at the station.

Sophia's cachet: 225,000$

Loren took the role in this less-than-enviable Foreman opus against the wishes of Ponti, wanting to attain status by working with such stellar talents as Reed, Howard, and Holden. Ponti's discomfort prompted him to provide male chaperones for his voluptuous wife whose "raw sensuality" apparently attracted both Holden and Reed. TV Guide

Trevor Howard wins Best British Actor award at the British Academy.


"One of the finest films produced in this country".
Felix Barker, Evening News.

"And from Sophia Loren, the director has drawn a performance that is touching and tender. She has never looked lovelier, which is no mean achievement when you remember that she is hardly ever seen in anything except her night clothes. In the hands of a less talented actress, this could have been just another story of a kind-hearted woman in a back bedroom. Miss Loren gives the role an extra dimension and lifts it above tawdry origins. She helps make The Key a strange, sombre, compelling film."
Leonard Mosley, Daily Express

"Miss Loren is affectingly distant yet quickly tender as the mystifying girl."
Bosley Crowther, New York Times, 2 jul 1958

"I think this is her best American picture so far."
Louella Parsons, Waterloo Daily Courier, 9 jun 1958

"Loren is excellent, and the film plays interestingly with the idea of a woman's mystery being the product of male prejudice and fear."
Time Out Film Guide

Playing down her usual voluptuous glamour, Sophia Loren is heartbreakingly vulnerable in this adaptation of Jan De Hartog's novel, Stella.

"What struck me was something terribly important to a director. She trusts you right from the start. She gives herself to you as an artist".
Carol Reed.

Copyrights for all photos belong to their respective owners.
© Excelsior Communication - 2007-2010

The Sophia Loren Archives
(click here if you don't see top menu)