Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Must-See Cinema: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948

This week's must-see cinema feature is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre from 1948, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt and Bruce Bennett.


This happens to be one of my very favorite movies of all time. It was based on a 1927 book of the same name (terrific book as well) by the odd mystery-man of American letters B. Traven, and has the dubious distinction of being the likely source for the well-known phrase from the late 60s and early 70s, "don't Bogart that joint". In a famous scene from the movie, one that used to be routinely edited out for television, Bogart and Walter Huston are sharing a "peace pipe" (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) with a bunch of Indios and Bogart says something to the effect of "Why are we passing this around? Why doesn't everybody just have his own?"

Etymology sites will inform you, pedantically, that the phrase comes from Bogart's habit of holding a cigarette between his lips, but I think that it too general, and that the most reliable theory stems from this scene in this movie.

Anyway, the film centers on a group of ne'er-do-well hangers on, barely existing on the scrappy edges of expat life in Mexico, who luck out and find gold -- a lot of gold -- in the mountains. Fred C. Dobbs, the Bogart character, representing Mister Average Man, allows his lust for gold to color his reality, with tragic results which were predicted by The Old Man.

The name Fred C. Dobbs kind of took on a life of its own after the release of this movie, to the point where it made an appearance as the name of a character in, of all things, the television series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and M*A*S*H.

Other references to the movie occur regularly, featuring  the famous line, "I don't got to show you no stinking badges!" Even if you've never even heard of this movie, you will recognize that line.

Directed by Walter Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart and Huston's own father, John Huston. Huston fils won two Academy Awards (Directing and Adaptation) and Huston père won Best Supporting Actor. The film was nominated for Best Picture but lost to Hamlet. Old B. Traven himself, in disguise as his agent Hal Croves, was present for most of the filming.

Watch for a young Robert Blake as the kid who sells Bogart a lottery ticket early in the movie, and a cameo by John Huston himself as the rich American in the white suit that Bogart keeps begging money from in the town square.

More reading:
  · The Treasure of the Sierra Madre on the IMDB.
  · The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  on Rotten Tomatoes
  · The Treasure of the Sierra Madre -- Rent it on Netflix