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Strange company caught in a searing, blinding tornado of emotions
Davor Blazevic3 March 2017
Transcribed from the trailer for "The Petrified Forest", filmed in the fall of 1935, and released early the following year.

[ Here's the news you have awaited-for a year and a half. Warner Bros. announce the re-uniting of The Stars Who Electrified The Screen World. The Girl Who Knows How To Use Her Charms – Bette Davis. And The Man Who Found Her Dangerous, but Irresistible – Leslie Howard. Co-starred in the sensational Broadway stage success "The Petrified Forest". ]

On the edge of the American desert lies a forest turned to stone, the Petrified Forest, grim, silent, mysterious. Here in a lonely desert tavern, faith draws together a strange company: Alan Squier (Leslie Howard), of Vagabond Adventure, running away from his past, Gabrielle Maple (Bette Davis), a beautiful girl, weary of the desert solitude, eager to escape with the first man who comes her way, Boze Hertzlinger (Dick Foran), an ex-football hero, down on his luck, Paul Chisholm (Paul Harvey), multimillionaire banker vacationing with his disillusioned young wife, Edith (Genevieve Tobin), Gramp Maple (Charley Grapewin), a sly old reprobate, and Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart), vicious leader of a notorious band of gunmen, hiding out after a gang massacre.

In a short space of 24 eventful hours, these characters live a lifetime of romance, adventure, terror and tragedy. It's one of the most unusual stories ever brought to the screen, "The Petrified Forest".

[ Gabrielle Maple: Wouldn't you like someone to be in love with you? Alan Squier: Yes, Gabrielle, I would like someone in love with me. Gabrielle Maple: Do you think I'm attractive? Alan Squier: There are better words than that for what you are. ]

"The Petrified Forest", where nature makes man Forget his conscience, and Strips woman of her pride.

[ Edith Chisholm: Do you mind if I speak up, my dear, perhaps I could tell you some things that… Gabrielle Maple: What do you know about me? Edith Chisholm: I don't know about you, my dear, but I do know what it means to repress yourself, and starve yourself. ]

[ Duke Mantee: What were you saying? Jason Maple: I'm telling you for your own good, Mantee. They know where you were heading, they picked up your trail. They'll get you. Jackie: What's the matter with you, Duke? Do something! Duke Mantee: Shut up! Shut up! Give me time to think. Alan Squier: No, Duke, you want revenge, don't you? You want to go out of your way again, to get that blonde who snitched, Well don't do it, Duke. Jackie: She has snitched, come on, Duke! Duke Mantee: I told you to shut up! Alan Squier: You know they gonna get you, anyway. You're obsolete, Duke, like me. You've got to die. Well, then die for freedom. That's worth it. Don't give up your life for anything so cheap and unsatisfactory as revenge. ]

You'll find yourself Caught in a searing, blinding tornado of emotions in "The Petrified Forest".

Leslie Howard re-creates the role that thrilled Broadway. [ Alan Squier: Any woman's worth everything that any man has to give: anguish, ecstasy, faith, jealousy, love, hatred, life or death. ]

Bette Davis more tempting, more tantalizing, then ever. [ Gabrielle Maple: Sometimes I feel as if I was sparkling all over, and I wanna go out and do something absolutely crazy and marvellous. ]

Humphrey Bogart the most terrifying character since the Cagney of "Public Enemy". [ Duke Mantee: Just keep in mind that I and the boys is candidates for hangin'. And the first time any one of ya makes a wrong move, I'm gonna kill the whole lot of ya! ]

And Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran.

"The Petrified Forest"

[ A New Triumph For The Screen's Greatest Dramatic Team. Brought to you by Warner Bros. the hit-after-hit studio. ]
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The Petrified Forest (1936) ***1/2
JoeKarlosi7 February 2005
Here is one of the reasons I love old movies so much - intriguing writing, great acting, and interesting characters hold our attention throughout the movie without needing to resort to desperate all-out action, explosions, and computer effects.

Leslie Howard is a gentle intellectual roaming the Arizona desert who happens upon a quaint little cafe/gas station in the middle of nowhere, amidst sand and cactus. He immediately stirs the emotions of big-eyed waitress, Gabby (played by an adorably youthful Bette Davis), who holds a dream of going to France and finding herself in the world. But despite their quick and mutual adoration for one another there is impending tension hovering around their introduction, as news continually escalates about a killer named Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) who's on the run and not far from the diner. Eventually, the infamous gangster shows up with some thugs and takes over the cafe, holding an array of wonderfully colorful characters hostage.

This was originally a play with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart, and leading man Howard reportedly refused to do the picture without Bogie being in it. As a result, this is noteworthy also as Bogart's big breakout movie, and it would only be a few more years before he would hit super-stardom all on his own. Humphrey seems to put a lot into his gangster character, investing Duke with the necessary evil demeanor, yet also with a hint of heart and soul. Leslie Howard and Bette Davis make a wonderful pair, and both give fine performances; which makes the potentially talky twenty minute scene where they first get acquainted actually completely captivating. Charley Grapewin is delightful and funny as Davis' chattering grandpa. Dick Foran, playing a strapping and comical football star who pumps gas while always trying to woo Gabby, was very good in this film and it's probably the best work I've seen him do in movies, before he wound up as a "B" player for Universal. His character here is in complete contrast from the heroes and "singing cowboys" I've been used to seeing him play.

At first watch I wasn't completely satisfied with the ending (which I will not reveal) but after thinking about it I came to the decision that it really fit the story well after all, and is actually very poetic. ***1/2 out of ****
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A Leslie Howard Classic
peacham2 November 1999
Based on the stunningly emotion play of the same title Petrified Forest is the tale that Acting great Leslie Howard will always be remembered for.He is at the heart of this film as a disillusioned intellectual whose personality never survived the war. Bette Davis is also strong as the waitress who Howard shares his secrets with. Humphrey Bogart made an impressive screen debut repeating the role of Duke Mantee at Howard's insistence. Howard and Bogart played the roles on stage and it is a treasure to see these two actors performances preserved for posterity. Those on this page who have questioned Howard's portrayal of his role are obviously missing the entire emotional through line of his role. Howard was far ahead of his time, an extremely naturalistic actor in a Hollywood obsessed by type casting. Watch this film and be moved by the story. you won't regret it.
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An amazingly relevant piece of cinema...
keihan1 June 2000
The best context to look at "The Petrified Forest" is through the context of the first great disaster of the 20th Century: World War I (or, as it was known then, "The Great War"). I had just finished reading a long, thorough history of World War I when I saw this one and even though this is some twenty years after that awful catastrophe (all wars usually are, but this one especially), one can still feel it's aftershocks rolling through that desolate landscape. Maybe that's why Leslie Howard's character, Alan Squier, wound up wandering through there, as it probably reminded him of more than a few days and nights in No Man's Land (a term invented by the Great War to describe the space between enemy lines). A lot of non-American WWI veterans came out of it really messed up. The whole foundation of the 19th century's ideals had been laid to waste by this new and brutal world that WWI brought about. So it's not very suprising to me that Squier feels "obsolete", as he puts it; the role he had hoped to take with his world doesn't even exist. The best he can do is give Gabrielle Maple the chance he can never have.

Duke Mantee (played by Bogie in a superb, breakthrough performance) is also a relic, but from a different period, that of the Roaring Twenties. Not for nothing were such outlaws as John Dillenger and Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow glamourized during this period; one could possibly point to our current fascination with serial killers as this phenomenon's modern equivalent. But by 1936, the period of the romantic outlaw was drawing to a close if it wasn't already over (a point made five years later in "High Sierra"). Mantee is totally without hope of escape or even a reprieve. He sees his fate as clear as day and doesn't kid himself about his chances of eluding it forever. That, more than anything, would explain his rapproachment with Squier and perhaps his reluctance to shoot him until Squier gives him no choice. Mantee may know his own fate well enough, but he has no wish to inflict that fate on someone in the same position.

Granted, there's a lot more layers and angles going on in "The Petrified Forest" than what I've just mentioned here, but this was the one that grabbed the most. Because human nature doesn't change that much, perhaps that's why this brilliant stage piece still holds my respect.
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Bogart's Breakthrough Film!
bsmith55529 February 2005
"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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The Dreams of the Discontented
gmatcallahan15 August 2004
"The Petrified Forest" (Archie Mayo, 1936) is most fascinating for its eager willingness to voice criticisms of wealth, power, authority, and inequality in America. Perhaps its acute social commentary should be unsurprising considering that Warner Brothers released the romantic crime drama during the depths of the Great Depression, but it is freshly relevant just the same, striking a note that would not be witnessed in the films of the forties and fifties. In speaking to the exploitation of workers, the snobbery of corporatism, the repression of women, blacks, artists, and literary poets, the reign of gangland crime, the American government's complicit abuse of power, and the loss of individuality in an increasingly meek age, "The Petrified Forest" manages an equal-opportunity iconoclasm that belies any party affiliations. Simply put, the film is unafraid to criticize America, and it's that sense of freedom that makes it particularly delightful. Best of all, "The Petrified Forest" voices its dissent through colorful witticisms and engaging banter, never taking itself too seriously or losing its sense of humor.

"The Petrified Forest" is also particularly notable for marking Humphrey Bogart's first major screen role as the nominal villain and escaped gangster Duke Mantee. The unshaven, pompadour-sporting Bogart is leering and menacing, brooding and growling and glowering, projecting the lonely, hard-bitten cynicism that would soon become his trademark. At the same time, however, he also emerges as a sympathetic and noble figure, one who transcends his criminal trappings through a fierce sense of integrity and individuality. Not only did these hard-boiled character traits become the template for the Bogart persona, but they also serve as a source of magnetism within the film's social milieu. Aside from the corporate oilman (Mr. Chisholm, played by Paul Harvey), Duke Mantee's hostages in a desert diner come to admire and salute his rugged individualism and defiance of the status quo, even as he endangers their lives. They yearn for the empowering resistance that he embodies and the gritty social rebelliousness that he wears on his prickly face, and when the film, before its final shootout, labels the confrontation as "Duke Mantee vs. the American government," it's clear that the sympathies of its principal characters reside with the Duke.

"The Petrified Forest" is also noteworthy for the dynamic contrast between its two black characters. One of them (Joseph, played by John Alexander) is virtually the embodiment of the pre-sixties Hollywood stereotype, a meek, shuffling, subservient chauffeur who always looks to his wealthy boss for paternalistic approval before opening his mouth. The other (Slim, played by Slim Thompson) is one of Duke Mantee's gangster associates, and he's clearly a liberated, autonomous, independent soul who offers his opinions on his own accord while mocking his "colored brother" for his subservience. He's almost a figure out of 1966 rather than 1936, and the difference between these two black men highlights the social conflict that the film heeds. On one side is the ruggedly individualistic and socially defiant Duke Mantee and a black man who marches to his own beat; on the other is a fat cat corporate tycoon and his docile and emasculated black servant, who, in turn, represent the American status quo. And so while Mantee and his gangsters are nominally the villains of "The Petrified Forest," at heart they constitute the film's heroes and rousing saviors. They are the men who obliquely brighten the hopeless despair and repressed frustrations of a trapped waitress who is secretly a talented painter (Gabby Maple, played by Bette Davis) and a fatalistically passionate French drifter-poet who is hitching his way to the Pacific Ocean (Alan Squier, played by Leslie Howard). They also seem to enliven several of the other repressed characters, from the restless wife of the cowardly tycoon (Mrs. Edith Chisholm, played by Genevieve Tobin), to an ex-college football player struggling to release his pent-up energies (Nick, played by Eddie Acuff), to an old man who longs for Billy the Kid, Mark Twain, and the legendary individualists of a bygone era (Gramp Maple, played by Charley Grapewin).

To be sure, the film doesn't explicitly paint Duke Mantee and his fellow gangsters as heroic saviors, but it's clear where the film's sympathies lie.

Ultimately "The Petrified Forest" is about an umbrella of misfits and their discontent with the repressive and exploitative American establishment, and it's that pulse of iconoclasm that keeps it audacious and provocative after all these decades.
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Danger in the Desert
bkoganbing11 October 2005
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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The film gave a tremendous boost to Bogart's screen career...
Nazi_Fighter_David12 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by Archie Mayo, "The Petrified Forest" gave a tremendous boost to Bogart's screen career by providing him with a ready-made showcase for his talent…

The movie was a very faithful adaptation of the play as it told of a group of diverse personalities who find themselves held at bay in a small service-station-restaurant by a ruthless gunman and his gang on the run from pursuing police… There were heavily symbolic overtones involving the overrunning of the doomed intellectuals by corruptive brute force…

Into this truly fragile framework, the screenplay weaves a tapestry of penetrating character studies… First there is Alan Squier (Leslie Howard), a disillusioned writer and intellectual who realizes he is a member of a vanishing breed of men whose visions of a Utopian existence have given way to the oppressive realities of a world that no longer has any room for his type of dreamer… Frustrated and quietly despairing, he meets a dreamer of another type, Gabrielle Maple (Bette Davis). She shares Squier's love of beauty and poetry and dreams of fleeing her repressing entrapment at the restaurant and traveling to France…

Into their world of fanciful idealism enters Humphrey Bogart—the reality, the brute force which threatens not only the dreamers but all of society… It is a finely truthful portrait of ultimate evil, magnificently played by Bogart with all the uncompromising ferocity the role demanded… It was one of Bogart's finest portrayals and it was the model, although considerably restrained, he would follow for the next years of his career…

Final note: Duke Mantee was a killer on the run… He was not a big-shot businessman… The assumption put into the audience's mind was that this mobster was a bank robber, a hold-up artist, an escaped convict... but never a wealthy criminal controlling an empire of corruption from plush offices on the 18th floor…

Approximately twenty years later, Bogart recreated his original role in a television production of "The Petrified Forest." Directed by Delbert Mann, the play featured Lauren Bacall in the Davis role and Henry Fonda in Howard's part... After all those years, Bogart still had the character down perfectly and received excellent notices…
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A question of simplicity...
Henry Fields9 March 2006
Who would be the best actor to play a failed writer, a romantic dreamer? Yeah, Leslie Howard seems to be a nice choice... And what if we take this pretty and young Bette Davis (before she becomes the best villain in the story of cinema) and make her play a rebel girl that's longing for a new life far away from that dusty Arizona hole she lives in? Lastly we give Humphrey Bogart the role of a bloodthirsty gangster that walks like a bulldog... Now that we have the perfect cast we just have to write a simple film-noir script, full of humor and with some touches of poetry and romanticism. That's it, a 80 minutes long wonder.

This is cinema, my friends. Quite a lesson of how to create characters and how to make a great movie with a few sets and with six or seven actors. "Petrified Forest" is 70 years old, but it'll remain magnificent for ever and ever.

*My rate: 9/10
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American Classic...
SamLowry-220 April 1999
This movie needs better spokespeople! So here goes: take Bogart, Howard, Davis. Classic story with modern undertones. Stage play that works on screen. Clever dialog. Bittersweet longing for a better place. Missed chances for love. Violent gangsters. Quaint desert cafes. Mix in blender: out comes a classic from 1936 which still tastes good today.

Don't miss it. You can't talk about American cinema until you've seen this one, too.
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Perfect Classic
ivan-2212 August 2000
A glorious movie based on a very wise and compassionate play. It is a savage indictment of a lifeless civilization. Confronted by death in a hostage situation, one elderly wife bitterly reproaches her husband of having stifled her personality: "You took my soul, you stenciled it on a card and filed it". Leslie Howard gives up his quest for bliss, and seeks to die in style for his beloved. Bogart represents nature lashing out against man. Alas, few movies from the thirties achieve this height of artistry. Hollywood makes a mistake when drawing plots from novels rather than plays. The concentrated compactness and intimacy of a play cannot be had from a sprawling novel.
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Race and Gender Issues Tackled in a Gangster Film
Ralph Michael Stein23 December 2001
I may have seen this film many, many years ago but I have no such recollection. I rented it last night and was amazed at the issues handled by a fine cast in a pre-World War II gangster film. A black chauffeur for a rich couple is not typically stereotyped but has a say as to how he does his job. A second black character is an equal member of the gang of fleeing desperadoes with no reference to his race and he engages in conduct no different than his cronies. A quick interchange between the two black characters is fascinating. The Rich Wife spills out her anger and frustration about a loveless marriage in terms as realistic for many today as it was when the film was made.

The love story is dramatic; it is also unreal. Leslie Howard, who was to die in World War II when the plane on which he was a passenger was shot down by the Luftwaffe (there's a strange story about THAT interception), relates his failed marital history with a genteel but real frankness not usually found in pre-war cinema.

Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart shine in their roles. Bogart was starting off on his long career as a bad guy and does his promise come across. Davis is appealing with a naivete absent from most of her later films.

This is definitely a film with an agenda. Comments on patriotism seem suspended between caricature and seriousness. A sign, "Tipping Isn't American-Keep Your Change," hangs prominently in the desert cafe. Tipping isn't American? During the Depression? Methinks not.

One of the best films from a long-ago Hollywood that had its too often underappreciated cohort of serious thinkers.

"Petrified Forest" is both a fine film and a reminder of a Hollywood that occasionally showed its ability to address sensitive issues when even discussion of some of them was largely infra dig for most cinema moguls and their claques.
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When Bette Davis Learned to Steal the Show . . .
phd1216621 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
. . . it was when she was 27yo. and she stoled the lead from Leslie Howard (a veteran actor by 1936) and Humphrey Bogart (who landed the supporting actor role via Howard's petitions to Warner Bros.).

In the desert of the US Southwest, Davis runs a desert diner and store owned by her dizzy daddy. Howard is a visiting vagrant writer on foot who stops in the diner to eat. After Davis waits on him, they strike up an intense conversation. However, the gangster Duke Mantee and his mob are making their way through the desert leaving a trail of blood behind them. Thus, Bogie, putting on a real thug act, also enters the diner scene where almost the entire film is set.

This was Davis and Howard's 2nd match up on the silver screen: Of Human Bondage was their Oscar-worthy-but-overlooked 1st. Their screen chemistry was simply sensual and a true pleasure to absorb.

Bogie's gangster character was nearly comical compared to Howard's philosophical and sophisticated wanderer. Davis played the young woman who has a talent for capturing the colorful desert scenes on canvass, but wants to go abroad to France, where her long lost mother is from and resides.

Therefore, Davis' character acts like a bridge between the two key men opposites: Bogart and Howard. She's both "street smart," from having to run the desert diner, and intellectual, since she is an avid reader and artist.

Given that this motion picture was filmed with sound barely beyond the silent years, Davis' live stage experience shows & shows up Bogie by far. There would never be a time in the history of Davis and Bogart's five movies together when Bogart was ever able to command the lead away from Davis. However, in "Dark Victory," Davis and Bogart did make a great love match.

It was later during "The Big Sleep" when the 25yo Lauren Bacall and the 46yo Bogie brought out the very best in each other. So much so immediately after that film was made they were wed. It was to Davis' credit that she groomed Bogie into a better actor. He wouldn't be the last actor Davis groomed into greatness.
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Siddown and keep yer yap shut.
Robert J. Maxwell28 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It's really an unusual movie (or, to be more exact, filmed stage play) for its time. There's nothing unique about the situation. A gangster and his handful of hoods hole up in an isolated desert cafe with hostages of varying characters. But it's impressively written, and handled deftly by the performers. There aren't that many movies in which I look forward to the appearance of Betty Davis, but she's just fine here.

The film is all the more surprising because the theme it treats is an old one -- the replacement of the old and exhausted by the new and visionary. (Cf., "Shane" for another example.)

It may have struck a more responsive chord with audiences of the early 1930s -- that old and exhausted business. (The rabid capitalism of the past must have seemed a little old-fashioned. When this was written, income taxes were negligible and there was no social security. The robber barons were able to keep just about every nickel they could squeeze out of their non-unionized subordinates.)

There's a kind of robber baron in this movie too. A businessman with an expensive car, a black chauffeur, and a wife who doesn't love him. It's a bit stereotypical, true, but it's hard to overcome the necessity for sketching in a character with a few lines of dialogue without seeming lazy or preachy. About half-way through, by the way, his wife gives him hell for his selfishness.

The two black characters (the chauffeur and one of the gangsters) are never referred to by their race. Both are highly individuated people and the one exchange between them is kind of funny. Bogart as Duke Mantee gives what is probably his most highly stylized performance. His menacing posture is that of someone who has recently suffered a stroke in the region of the cerebellum. He even speaks oddly -- not his usual snappy lines, but long, drawn-out, ominous, yet resigned to his fate. He seems to agree with Leslie Howard that they are washed up, which is the reason he agrees to kill Howard, who will then leave his insurance money to Betty Davis so she can return to France where she was born. It's Custer's last stand. And that forest is indeed petrified.

There's a bit of philosophizing and poetry -- but not enough to dull the narrative. And Villon is the perfect poet for Betty Davis. Not aristocratic or elegant, a thief from the lower depths really, but filled with passion. ("This is the end for which we twain are met.") He could have been Davis leaving the petrified forest and involving herself in something most people would recognize as more grand.

Howard has misspent his life. He's only written one book, so he's obviously a failure. I didn't care for that remark too much, since I've only written one book myself ("Fine Wines of Mississippi") and nobody read it except my Mom, and her only at gunpoint. So maybe Howard overplays the world weariness. But he and Bogart are the only two characters in the movie who seem to know what it's all about. The gangsters and the football player are airheads. Davis is full of dreams. The businessman thinks only of himself. His wife brims over with resentment. The old man is foolish and tells lies. Only Howard and Bogart see through everything.

It's quite a good movie. It shows what you can do with some good actors, a decent script, and very little in the way of extravagant special effects or expensive location shooting. (The windblown desert sets look the way windblown desert locations should, and so seldom do.) My advice? Siddown, mug, and watch it.
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One of the all-time classics.
dualkubota26 January 2006
Bogart plays a villain who is so mean he makes Al Pacino's "Scarface" look like an altar boy. Davis is young and gorgeous in this movie, with incredible eyes...this is long before she would become the middle-aged hag with the cigarette-smokers voice. In this movie she was 28 and an absolute doll. The character played by Howard is flawless.

Of special interest is the portrayal of the two blacks in this 1936 movie, long before the civil rights movement. Slim the black outlaw, offers Joseph the black chauffeur, a drink. "Here's your drink colored brother." Joseph asks his employer, "Is it all right Mister Chisolm?" Then Slim mocks Joseph and his Uncle Tom attitude and says, "Listen to him, 'Is it all right Mister Chisolm.' Ain't you heard about the big liberation? Take your drink, weasel." This is very interesting dialog for its time period, because I never knew there was a "New Liberation" (of blacks) in 1936.
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Nature can't be beaten!
B&W-29 April 1999
This is one of the most profound films of the thirties. Made from an extremely literate play by Robert Sherwood, it explores the mind of the idealist. Leslie Howard was born to play the part of the disaffected English writer. He speaks his poignant lines with conviction... Bette Davis shows her dreamy side and this film, and it's just as compelling as her bitchy aspect... and Bogart, well, this is the first film in which he really IS "Bogart". A good/bad man in an impossible situation, he is, Howard calls him, "the last great apostle of rugged individualism". SEE THIS movie! It's one of the great romances of all-time!
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Love and Death
telegonus8 April 2001
The movie version of Robert Sherwood's play, The Petrified Forest, is an oddity. An outstanding, maybe even great film derived from a basically second rate work. Archie Mayo directs splendidly this story of a poet-drifter who (literally) walks into an eatery in the Arizona desert, where he runs into a desperate, Dillingeresque bad guy who holds him hostage, and in the course of his captivity falls in love with a very naive young woman. Much of the dialogue is dated (though clever) and is written in the faux-Lost Generation style popular in Broadway plays of the twenties and thirties, which is to say there are hints of Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the attitudes expressed, but little of their artistry and originality. As the drifter, sensitive, pipe-smoking Leslie Howard has never been better or better cast; one almost suspects that the role was written for him. Humphrey Bogart, in his first good movie role, is appropriately menacing; he looks remarkably like John Dillinger, and shows even at this stage of his career much of the charm and charisma that later propelled him to superstardom. Watch him closely: he more than holds his own with Howard. Bette Davis is somewhat silly as the love interest; this was not a good part for her. There are no demons for her to unleash in this shy school-girl, and she seems at a loss as to how to play her. The supporting cast is superb, down to the smallest bit player. Mayo and Company worked wonders with the desert set, with its cacti, tumbleweeds and air of rustling menace. We know it's not a real desert, but it doesn't matter; the state of mind is all. This is how the real desert would feel in the mind of such a man as Howard plays, and this is all that matters. The shack-like eatery, with its blinking barbeque sign, is a great creation; with its creaking floorboards and dry as sand tables and chairs, one can almost smell the chili. Also, the transition from day to night is exceedingly well done and quite subtle; it just happens. You know it's dark outside without actually having to see the darkness just beyond the door. The feeling of stars and huge sky above is conveyed by dialogue only and is yet palpable nonetheless; there in spirit if not fact. Inside, the claustrophobia is well-managed; even with several camera shifts there is a strong sense of confinemnt in the film. Mayo did a better job here, with this threadbare, wildly ambitious play, than Wyler ever did with much better material, and I'm not sure why. Mayo's career drifted downward in the late thirties and forties, and of his later work the less said the better. But in 1936 he proved that with great actors, outstanding cameramen and art directors, small miracles could be wrought right on the Warner Brothers back lot, and for a while at least the desert bloomed.
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Puts new movies to shame.
keypnitghetto9 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Such substance in the movie. Just the dialogue alone keeps you intrigued. The only reason I give this movie a 9 and not a 10 is because Bogies hand position is distracting. He walks like an ape. Even if he is supposedly imitating Dillinger - it's weird to look at. I also enjoyed the married couples side conversations - very comical and a refreshing change from the serious situation with the gangsters. Also loved the relationship between Betty Davis' character and her new love interest- not a sappy love story at all. Very mature feelings on Leslie's character - he is pretty captivating. Deep conversationalist and witty and quick as well.
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Not seeing this movie would be making a wrong move, you don't want to make no wrong moves, see.
Ham_and_Egger10 June 2005
Having *just* watched it I'm not sure if 'The Petrified Forest' is a crime thriller, a melodrama, or a comedy. I do know that I laughed all the way through it. The writing is sharp and oddly convincing despite an obvious written-for-the-stage sheen.

Every line that Bogart spits out is a gem, he's virtually radioactive, you can feel his angst through your screen. Leslie Howard and Bette Davis are also very good. Especially hilarious is the interplay between Howard, the wordy, cynical, romantic, failed novelist, and Bogart's terse, mad-dog, killer.

The DVD I saw comes with a news reel from 1936 that drives home the fact that this story was very much "ripped from the headlines" and most likely the contemporary audience didn't watch it with the same ear-to-ear grin that I wore, but it really is desperately funny.
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Perhaps Leslie Howard's finest work
Dire_Straits5 June 2005
I'm not a big fan of Leslie Howard but THE PETRIFIED FOREST is his best film, in my book.

He was great in THE 49th PARALLEL and OF HUMAN BONDAGE, and he's great here too. In this film, he is a lazy writer gone awry, trying to live out his dreams in Bette Davis' character (who is a painter).

In a way, he's totally opposite of Humphrey Bogart's Duke Mantee character, and the dichotomy really is the justification of 'classic' given to this film.

Bogart's and Davis' performances are just average in this film - although at the time of the release, this was Bogart's best film.

I think the old man - Charley Grapewin - and Genevieve Tobin (as Mrs. Chisholm) do a great job with their small parts. Tobin is also a very attractive lady!

I enjoyed the banter between the two drivers as well, both African-Americans cast in a "white" movie at WB in '36. It's a shame they weren't given larger roles.

Talky and melodramatic - and certainly unbelievable (the middle-of-nowhere desert gas station is almost always FULL of people, for starters), this stagy, yet classic film is not for everyone. Your kids will hate this film. But to me - this is good stuff.

This **is** prototypical 1930's cinema.
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Brilliant script, above average actors
moviola-221 January 1999
Superb melodrama with absolutely fantastic cast. With Howard, Davis and Bogart under the expert Direction of Archie Mayo the Sherwood play shines for ever in the history of the cinema. This is as good as it gets in the mid-30's awards. I even like the Colorized version- find the sound is much better. I recommend the laserdisc version of course. For Leslie Howard fans, may I suggest The Scarlet Pimpernel as a must on your collection next to this one.
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Allegorical Depression-era drama is stagy but effective
Bryan Ho27 November 1998
The Petrified Forest is a social allegory that's the product of the Great Depression. Although not as brutal and seemingly spontaneous as its later noir cousin, John Huston's Key Largo (1948), there's something romantic about a group of characters, plucked from the various facets of American society, who, by some inexplicable fate, come to meet in a greasy spoon in the middle of the Arizona desert where their destinies are played out.

The diner is almost another dimension, separated from the America of the Great Depression. The social obligations, classes and morality of the characters are forgotten, leaving only the base substance of the human being, who yearns for love, loyalty, truth and freedom. Howard's intellectual pauper, Davis' waitress dreamer and Tobin's upper-crust snob are put on the same human level as Bogart's cold-blooded killer, and the result is the drawing out of the true personality of the individual, not the group whom the individual represents.

Written for the stage, the material is naturally stagy, taking place, for the most part, in the eating area of the diner. But director Archie Mayo uses the layered staging of actors and the camera frame to create instant relationships between the various characters, as well as dimensions on the dialogue being spoken. Unfortunately in his search cinematic quality, at times he is almost forcing the lines down the our throat through the use of POV.

Still, the material holds up well in spite of the dated quality, and The Petrified Forest ranks as a top-notch and literate crime drama with an eclectic cast of characters and dramatic tension that holds your attention.
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A great classic.
CoolBrz20 March 2005
I have probably seen this film 10 times in my life, the most recent the DVD version which has some nice extras.

I have been a huge Bogart fan for close to 25 years and this movie defined him right at the start of his second, more mature venture into films. The acting is good all around, although I don't think the football player was that good.

I have to say that I find it interesting seeing the interaction between the black characters; it was very funny and also quite ahead of it's time.

Although some of the references in this film are lost to younger viewers, I still think it has held up well and certainly is worth watching even if you are not a Davis or Bogart fan per se.
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It's not Bogart's belong to Leslie Howard
vincentlynch-moonoi11 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The first time I saw this film I was still a kid, and I hated the film. But that was a scratchy print on the late late show. Now, over 40 years later I watched it again with a beautiful print on TCM, and what a different viewpoint I have of the film. But I will start out with one big criticism. The artwork on the scenery is just the worst I've ever seen in any film.

There are really two stories here. The first we come across is the meeting of Bette Davis (a somewhat sophisticated young lady who is stuck at her father's gas station/restaurant in eastern Arizona near the Petrified Forest) and Leslie Howard (a world traveler who plays a man who is...well, what I always think of when I see Howard...wistful). Davis is attracted to Howard because he is an intellectual, and she wants a life beyond rural Arizona.

Then a wanted murderer comes to the gas station/restaurant -- Duke Mantee -- a superb role for Humphrey Bogart, although afterwards he starred or co-starred in quite a few forgettable B movies before gaining more recognition and better parts. Mantee has a different effect on the various characters. Davis seems to admire Leslie Howard all the more. Howard seems to find a destiny in an otherwise empty and unfulfilling life. Gramps is excited to meet another murderer (he had once known Billy The Kid).

If you think is a Humphrey Bogart film, you're wrong, although it did bring him to Hollywood. This movie very much belongs to Leslie Howard. He is excellent, as is Davis. Bogart is, in my view, more menacing there than any of his other gangster films.

There are several good supporting performances here. Genevieve Tobin is very good as the socialite. Charley Grapewin is excellent as Gramp Maple. Paul Harvey is good as the rich husband of the socialite. The worst performance here (not to mention a really dumb character) is Dick Foran as a foolish football player.

Highly recommended, although I have a hunch this won't show up on many DVD's almost too intellectual.
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