When discussing notorious gangsters, one name usually comes to mind.
From his buzzcuts to his scars on face, Humphrey Bogart, the man with the famous lisp, was, for a time, the world’s most threatening man.
Before marrying Bacall, and flirting with Audrey Hepburn on camera, Bogart was Hollywood’s resident tough guys; cracking wise, smooching dames, the guy did it all.
The film that best portrays Bogart in this “tough guy” light is 1936’s The Petrified Forest.
Directed by Archie Mayo and co-starring a talented cast of Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, and Dick Foran, The Petrified Forest tells the story of a man, a wanderer, to say the least, the goes by the name of Alan Squier.
He’s a failed writer, a poet – a broken man. Couple that with his Great Depression woes, and that makes a perfect recipe for someone, specifically Alan, to go and bother a homely barkeep and his daughter.
After getting fed and clothed, Gabrielle (Bette Davis) and Alan start to get on swimmingly.
It’s quite cute, actually. This homely, rather socially awkward (this hits too close to home,) young lady being absolutely enthralled with this mystery man’s presence is, frankly, one of the more underrated parts of this film.
So, the two of them get along very well, and everything appears to be going splendidly for them.
In walks Bogart and company.
Duke Mantee, a gangster, a cheat, an all-around bad guy walks into their bar with a gun in one hand and a point to prove.
After holding hostage a wealthy couple in order to evade police, Duke strolls into this bar looking his girlfriend that he was supposed to rendezvous with.
Duke is a pretty intimidating guy and is precisely the reason why he was picked for this blogathon.
When you initially view this film, especially when you’re used to the “cleaned up” Bogart, his appearance comes as a shock.
Dirtied, 5 O’Clock shadow, and stained clothes galore, this is Duke Mantee in his entire glory.
What makes him so scary is his lack of control.
Duke has a very quick temper and any little thing (or person) that he perceives to mess up his plans will more or less be caught in his line of fire.
This kept me on edge throughout the entire film.
When he’s holding everyone captive inside that bar, you could feel the tension. One false move and, potentially, your life could be over. Just thinking about it again makes my skin crawl. What a wonderful performance that Bogart put on, absolutely outstanding.
Classic movie buffs could argue that this is the film that put Bogart on the map, and they’d be right.
This was Bogart‘s first major screen role, it essentially put Humphrey‘s acting abilities on the map, not only for the public eye but also in the offices of every major movie studio during that era.
If you haven’t had the chance to see this film, I strongly suggest you do so. You’ll not only enjoy performances from Bette Davis and Leslie Howard, but you will also be able to see Bogart at his career inception and, arguably, in his very best role.
If you’d like to read more entries in this blogathon, click: here