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
The original Broadway version also featured John Alexander and Slim Thompson, who recreated their roles in this film. The stage production opened January 7, 1935 at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York and ran for 197 performances. See more »
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 »
"The Petrified Forest" is widely regarded as Humphrey Bogart's breakthrough film, which indeed it was. Bogey had made several forgettable films between 1930-34 before returning discouraged to the New York stage. There, he acquired the role of Duke Mantee in the stage version of "The Petrified Forest" in which Leslie Howard was the star.
When Warner Bros. bought the film rights they wanted Howard but also wanted Edward G. Robinson for the Mantee role. Howard interceded on Bogart's behalf saying that if Bogey wasn't cast as Mantee that he wouldn't do the film either. Bogey never forgot this favor and years later named his daughter Leslie after Howard.
The story takes place in a dusty road side cafe/gas station in the middle of a desert. The film is essentially about a bunch of life's losers with no real future except for the young waitress Gabrielle Maples (Bette Davis) who dreams of leaving the dusty desert for the bright lights of Paris.
A wandering intellectual/writer Alan Squier (Howard) comes to the cafe broke and hungry. He strikes up a friendship with Gabrielle who admires his cultured manner and love of poetry much to the chagrin of would be boyfriend Boze Hertzinger (Dick Foran) a has been football player who now pumps gas. Inside the cafe we meet Gabrielle's father Jason (Porter Hall) who fancies himself as a war hero and Gramp Maples (Charlie Grapewin) a senile old timer who likes to tell stories of his encounter with Billy the Kid.
Into this peaceful setting comes gangster Duke Mantee (Bogart) and his three pals Jackie (Joe Sawyer), Ruby (Adrian Morris) and Slim (Slim Thompson). The gang is on the lam from the law. Mantee holds all of the people in the cafe hostage including travelers the Chisolms (Paul Harvey, Genevieve Tobin) and their chauffeur Joseph (John Alexander). The rest of the film deals with the conflicts between the various characters and the growing love story between Alan and Gabrielle.
Bogey reportedly patterned his Mantee after real life gangster John Dillinger right down to his speech and movements. In fact if you look at photographs of Dillinger, you can see the resemblance. This might explain Bogey's CP3O (the android from "Star Wars") like posture. Notice how he holds his arms and his walk.
The two black actors (Thompson and Alexander) were also in the New York stage production. Dick Foran was appearing as a singing cowboy in a series of "B" westerns for Warners and welcomed this chance at a straight role in a major film.
Although Bogart definitely dominated the film, one can't help but admire the performance of Leslie Howard as Squier. Bette Davis just emerging as a major star has little to do but stare wide-eyed at Howard.
After this film, Warners signed Bogart to a contract. He would play mostly gangster roles in Cagney and Robinson films with the odd lead in a "B" picture such as "Black Legion" (1937) until 1941 when he became a major star after appearing in "High Sierra" and "The Maltese Falcon".
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