Gabby lives and works at her dads small diner out in the desert. She can't stand it and wants to go and live with her mother in France. Along comes Alan, a broke man with no will to live, who is traveling to see the pacific, and maybe to drown in it. Meanwhile Duke Mantee a notorious killer and his gang is heading towards the diner where Mantee plan on meeting up with his girl. Written by
Gabrielle Maple's pronunciation of the name of the French town Bourges is incorrect (something like "Bourggs" instead of "Bourj"), even though she has been spoken of it by her French mother, who was born there. See more »
Mrs. Edith Chisholm:
I was married to this pillar of the mortage loan and trust... he took my soul and stenciled on a card and filed. And that's where I've been ever since, in an odd metal cabinet.
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Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest had a run in 1935 on Broadway for the first half of that year. Warner Brothers bought the film rights and shot it the following year. Leslie Howard and at his insistence, Humphrey Bogart, came west to repeat their stage roles.
For Bogart it was a return to bigger acclaim than he had gotten in his first trip to Hollywood in the early Thirties. He hadn't made much of an impression then, but he was in Tinseltown to stay after The Petrified Forest and his frightening characterization of criminal on the run, Duke Mantee.
The Petrified Forest takes place in a filling station/greasy spoon truck stop on the edge of the Arizona desert. About as desolate a place as you'll find. Three generations of the Maple family own and operate the place. Grandpa Charley Grapewin, Father Porter Hall, and daughter Bette Davis who dreams about the fact there's more to life than this nowhere place. Bette also has to contend with former college football star Dick Foran and his clumsy efforts at courtship.
Along comes Alan Squier played by Leslie Howard who's a blase world weary vagabond who's seen better days. He and Davis hit it off and she comes to realize that there is a great big world out there.
The first third of the movie involves the two of them and I have to say that in the mouths of players less skilled than these two, Robert Sherwood's dialog would have sounded like so much romantic drivel.
For Davis, Gabrielle Maple is a unique part and not one she'd play later on as her features hardened. An intelligent and romantic young girl is not a typical Bette Davis part, but she does bring it off.
As for Howard, Alan Squier is a typical part for him. Not too much different than Ashley Wilkes or Philip Scott from The 49th Parallel.
The remainder of the film is when Duke Mantee and his gang take refuge at the filling station and hold captive anyone who's there or wanders in. A lot of souls are bared under Mantee's guns and the climax is spectacular.
Two other actors who repeated their Broadway roles are Joseph Alexander who's the chauffeur of a rich couple who stop at the filling station and Slim Thompson a member of Mantee's gang. Both of these players are black.
Joseph Alexander is a menial and Slim Thompson really rubs it in to him, telling him the day of liberation has come for some time now. In 1936 that was practically revolutionary.
Alexander had a substantial career, but I have no idea what happened to Thompson. He had no other film credits and only one other stage appearance on Broadway in the original production of Anna Lucasta.
Moviegoers of all generations should thank Leslie Howard for insisting on Humphrey Bogart being in this film and helping to create a screen legend.
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