Humphrey Bogart had been in quite a few movies before getting his first juicy role in this 1936 classic. He had played the gunslinger villain in the Broadway production of the Robert E. Sherwood play, and his co-star Leslie Howard insisted that Warner Bros. cast him in the film instead of Edward G. Robinson, who was a more bankable star. The movie was a breakthrough for Bogart, though it typecast him as a heavy. Bette Davis and Howard had teamed up two years earlier in Of Human Bondage, and the chemistry between them is important to making this quirky Western plausible. Some of the dialogue is heavy-handed, and Archie Mayo’s direction tends to be predictable, but The Petrified Forest is still a fine example of vintage Hollywood melodrama that was starting to allow villains like the Bogart character to be more well-rounded and interesting.
1936, B&W, 83 minutes