The Petrified Forest
Published on Saturday, 25 September 2010 20:00
Written by Rock
|Title||The Petrified Forest|
|Directed By||Archie Mayo|
|Written By||Charles Kenyon, Delmer Daves|
Adapted from the play by Robert E. Sherwood
|Starring||Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran|
|DVD Distributer||Warner Bros.|
|MPAA Rating||Not Rated|
|By It Now On|
Where Bogart's type casting began!
Known primarily as the film that ushered actor Humphrey Bogart into the spotlight, The Petrified Forest
is a top notch yarn exploiting human frailty from all walks of life. Based on the play penned by Robert E. Sherwood, which actor's Howard and Bogart had performed successfully on Broadway, the two thespians reprise their respective roles here. During the casting for this flick, Warner Brothers studios had originally sought out actor Edward G. Robinson for the John Dillinger inspired role of 'Duke Mantee', yet, Howard had pledged to Bogart at an earlier date, that he would not appear in a film adaptation without him, and relayed this to Warner Bros. In turn, the studio offered Bogart a different part, which he amicably agreed to, however; Howard resisted this compromise.
Also joining the cast, is actress Bette Davis, whom did not appear alongside the duo during its Broadway run, but, had previously co-starred with Howard in Of Human Bondage (1934), for which her performance was nominated for an Academy Award, for Best Actress in a Leading Role. It is easy for one to speculate that these previous pairings, of Bogart and Howard, and Davis and Howard, led this trio to perform remarkably within this exemplary drama in a pre-noir environment.
Taking place within northern Arizona, the film renders the plight of a lone traveler, a self-proclaimed failed writer by the name of Alan Squier (Howard). He happens upon a roadside eatery, run by retired Military Serviceman Jason Maple (Porter Hall), and his daughter Gabrielle (Davis). The two are assisted by Gabby's Grandfather (Charley Grapewin), whom annoys the few customers that pass through their isolated town, and by Boze (Foran), the local football has-been, whom is sweet on Gabby. Also present are the well to do traveler's Mr. and Mrs. Chisholm (Paul Harvey and Genevieve Tobin), in the lukewarm twilight of their marriage.
As Alan enjoys a modest meal, he engages in conversation with Grandpa, while Gabby grows enamored with the intellectual prowess of the dusty, weary traveler. He tells Gabby of France and its wonders, listens to her recite Villon, and entertains her paintings. This doesn't sit well with Boze, whom has become jealous of the pairs mutual attraction. Upon learning that Alan has no means of paying his tab, Boze attempts to throw him out, but, Gabby halts his actions, and arranges his continued travel with the Chisholm's.
Though Gabby is heartbroken by Alan's departure, it isn't long before the Chisholm's limo is hijacked by Duke Mantee (Bogart) and his gang. On the run from the law, Mantee and his murderous clan take the Chisholm's vehicle back to the Maple's diner, followed by the pedestrian Alan. It isn't long before the Chisholm's, themselves, make their way back to the Diner, and the entire cast is held hostage by the desperate outlaw.
Though Mantee has been described as ruthless by the authorities, he has his code, and his merit's. He does not seek to harm any innocents, yet, exudes an uneasy rule over the denizens of the diner. The interaction between the combined cast is some of the best dialog and drama cinema has to offer, and must be witnessed to fully appreciate. The situation, though not chosen by the peoples concerned, brings all to a fragile bond, yet, all are quite aware of its seriousness.
Taking place, during this siege, is a mutual admiration between Duke and Alan, and a growing attraction between Gabrielle and Alan, which results in a twisted bargain. Alan compels Duke to an agreement, which will end the failed authors life, and in turn, bequeath to Gabrielle the meager sum contained in his life insurance policy, making it possible for the young waitress to leave the Petrified Forest, and pursue her passions, abroad.
Though Bogart thought the aspect of portraying a gangster on screen as a hard sell,
Edward G. Robinson welcomed a departure from the type-cast. Little did Bogart suspect that assuming the role of Duke Mantee would lead to his own type casting, and bring his legions of fans such gems as King of the Underworld
(1939), High Sierra
(1941), The Big Shot
(1942), and many more.
Admittedly, The Petrified Forest does yield itself to a predictable and inevitable outcome, and its finale is arguably the weakest act. However; the remainder of this projects scenes are finely executed by the amiable and competent cast.
Edward G. Robinson, whom had relinquished participation in this endeavor, would eventually participate in a similar role within Key Largo (1948), alongside Bogart, whom would also initiate a similar part in The Desperate Hours (1955). Fans of these works are sure to find themselves engaged in this picture.