Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016

After a number of years as a Hollywood screenwriter, with such classics as “Jezebel” and “Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet” under his belt, John Huston co-wrote “High Sierra,” which starred Humphrey Bogart in his first major role.

The next year, Huston boosted Bogart to superstardom with “The Maltese Falcon,” which Huston adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s novel and took on as his directing debut.

Huston went on to co-write “Sergeant York” (1941), “The Killers (1946) and “The Three Strangers” (1946) before directing again, his second effort being “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), again starring Bogart. They would go on to make three more films together, “Key Largo” (1948), “The African Queen” (1950) and “Beat the Devil” (1953) — and many more separately, including a startling number of now-classic pictures.


Walter Huston, left, Tim Holt, Humphrey Bogart, 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre'

But for many, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is the pinnacle of their work together (and perhaps separately) with its story of greed and paranoia, thanks to a gold strike. (Today it might work as a metaphor for lottery winners.)

As the film opens it is 1925 Mexico in the oil-town of Tampico. Bogart plays Fred C. Dobbs, whose luck has gone sour after being cheated out of wages, along with his partner Curtin (Tim Holt). After meeting an old prospector named Howard (Walter Huston), and with their luck seemingly on the upswing with a lottery win, the trio heads to the remote Sierra Madre mountains to search for gold.

Despite some mishaps along the way, they eventually find their spot and, lo and behold, they make a strike, and it’s a rich vein. But Dobbs quickly becomes greedy and paranoid about whether he can trust his friends, and it doesn’t help when a fourth man comes along. Should they share the gold with him, or just kill him and be done with it out here in the middle of nowhere?

Recently there’s a lot of talk about the 2016 Oscar nominations (for 2015 films) and who’s been left off the list, but this is a good example of how that is nothing new. Of course, we now have the benefit of hindsight, but Bogart is incredibly convincing as a man who is gradually going mad — and madder. That his performance wasn’t at least acknowledged with a nomination seems astonishing. (And even more so when you look at the nominees for that year and find Dan Daily up for “When My Baby Smiles at Me”!)


      Alfonso Bedoya, 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'

Everyone is good here, including Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane and Alfonso Bedoya, who utters the film’s most famous line: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.”

John Huston has an unbilled cameo early in the film as a tourist hit up for money by Bogart (not once but three times), and he won Oscars for writing and for directing “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” (He was nominated for a total of 15 Oscars during his lifetime but these two were his only wins.)


Humphrey Bogart, left, John Huston, 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre'

His father Walter also earned an Oscar as best supporting actor for this film. (In 1950 he directed Bogart to an Oscar win for “The African Queen” and in 1985 he did the same thing for his daughter Anjelica Huston, for “Prizzi’s Honor.”)

This opportunity to see “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” on the big screen is not to be missed. You can see it on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m., and on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 2 and 7 p.m., in several local Cinemark Theatres.