Dead trees in the desert that have turned to stone.
Steven Hellerstedt | 04/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a difference 70 years make. In 1936 THE PETRIFIED FOREST offered theater goes the exciting prospect of the re-teaming of IN HUMAN BONDAGE'S costars Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Today Howard is practically forgotten and Davis moved on to much more memorable roles. The reason eternity pays heed to this movie is because of the breakthrough performance of the actor who shows up fifth on the cast credits, after not only Howard and Davis but Genevieve Tobin and Dick Foran as well. Although the term is overused, Humphrey Bogart is electrifying as criminal Duke Mantee, and he steals the show and wrestles a movie career in the process. Howard was a world class actor, and I can't remember another instance where Davis wasn't the most interesting character on the screen. For a 30-something stage actor, and a more or less failed film star, to steal a film from these two heavyweights is a staggering achievement. For my money, Duke Mantee stands as one of Bogart's best film performances ever. The movie is based on Robert Sherwood's hit Broadway play of the same name. Howard plays gentle roustabout Alan Squier, an esthete young man hitchhiking across America, `looking for something to believe in.' The wind shakes him out of the even present dust and deposits him at the isolated Arizona diner young Gabrielle Maple (Bette Davis) runs with her father and grandfather. Davis plays the naïve and romantic and `gabby' young girl stuck in the middle of nowhere who paints and dreams of reuniting with her mother in France and reads the poems of Francois Villon to take the stink of the hamburger and gasoline out of her system. The first act, and much of the second, is used to bud the romance between Alan and Gabby, all the while reminding us that brutal criminal Nick Mantee is on the loose and in the area. Of course, Mantee finally arrives and Alan presciently announces that `carnage is imminent and I'm due to be among the fallen.' Bogart, who modeled Mantee on real life criminal John Dillinger, then proceeds to lay claim to Hollywood immortality. With his heavy stubble and dark and haunted eyes and stooped shoulders Bogart looks like a hunted beast of a man. More a mono-syllabic killer than `the last great apostle of rugged individualism,' as Alan puts it. Or, as Mantee would say, `Maybe you're right, pal. I couldn't say.' THE PETRIFIED FOREST never quite shakes it stage heritage. Although commentator Eric Lax (Bogart biographer) tells us in his fact filled and entertaining commentary the tons of dust used on the soundstage, the film spends almost all of its time on one set - the interior of the diner - and the movie has a pretty static feeling to it as a result. The print looks and sounds great, by the way. The dvd also has a 15- minute feature "Menace in the Desert", in which film historian Alain Silver and others discuss the Robert Sherwood stage play, its conversion to the screen, and the role that set Humphrey Bogart's star. Also included on the disk is the delightful and always welcome Warners Night at the Movie. It opens with a trailer for Bullets or Ballots, an Edgar G. Robinson crime thriller where he plays the good guy. That's followed by "Rhymitis", a dancing short with Hal LeRoy and Toby Wing. It doesn't have much of a plot but it's fun. A modern day alchemist comes up with a pill that makes you want to dance dance dance whenever you hear a beat that can't be beat. Night at the Movies concludes with the color cartoon "The Coo Coo Nut Grove," a take-off on the Coconut Grove nightclub and a lampoon of contemporary Hollywood stars - i.e., W.C. Fields as a pig, Katharine Hepburn a horse, etc. "
The End of the Road
James L. | 02/17/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've had the advantage of seeing The Petrified Forest as a movie and on stage. Taking into account the fact that the stage production I saw wasn't the greatest, I still think that the movie version captured the story better. The story is dated and clearly belongs in the time period it was made, but that works in the film. The performances also work. Leslie Howard, sort of a forgotten Thirties' star these days, manages to make some difficult dialogue play well. Humphrey Bogart, in an early role as the young gangster, makes his character an interesting and sympathetic figure, despite not having many moments to really develop the character with dialogue. Bette Davis brings a lot of conviction to her role as the young, full of ideas waitress that Howard falls in love with. The Petrified Forest is a hostage drama, but it's more than that. It looks at life, growth, love, and disillusionment. It presents a nice contrast of characters, since Howard and Bogart are both at the end of their roads, having gotten there in very different ways. Bearing in mind that the film/play was written for an audience in the Thirties, today's movie fan will still find truths and entertainment in it."
Fascinating film debut for Humphrey Bogart
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 08/08/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Actually, this was not quite Bogart's debut. He had been in a few utterly forgettable films in tiny roles in the early 1930s before returning to Broadway, but this is his "real" debut.THE PETRIFIED FOREST had been a highly successful stage play starring Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart, and Warner Brothers wanted to do a film version of it. They therefore approached Howard with the offer, indicating that they would like to have him reprise his starring role, and have him star opposite Edward G. Robinson as Duke Mantee. Howard, however, indicated that he would only make the film if his Broadway costar, Bogart, played Duke Mantee. At this point in his career, Bogart's acting career had consisted primarily in playing juvenile parts in various plays (the famous line "Tennis anyone?" is perhaps mythically attributed to one of his roles, but sums up the spirit of onstage persona) and failed attempts to break into film. Playing Duke Mantee had been a dramatic departure for Bogart, who had never previously played a heavy. Luckily for film history, Howard insisted that he would not make THE PETRIFIED FOREST unless Bogart played Mantee.Historically, the most important thing about this film is that it launched Bogart's film career. Although he would spend the next four years playing a huge number of gangsters, he was, nonetheless, after this film, a Hollywood mainstay, becoming the number four gangster in the Warner Brother stable after Robinson, Cagney, and Raft. THE PETRIFIED FOREST is, however, entertaining on its own. The one great negative of the film is the fact that it is very obviously a film version of a stage play. The action of the film is limited to only a few locations, and overall the production has a very static feel. Although there are some interesting sets, with some fascinating painted backdrops of Arizona landscape (some of it was shot live, but most of it is done in a studio), the real interest in the film lies in the performances. Leslie Howard made far too few films for my taste. I know he was deeply involved in the stage, but he was both immensely talented and quite charismatic. Unfortunately, his bizarre death cut his talent off far too soon (during WW II, the Luftwaffe shot down a plane he was in, thinking that a military or political VIP was on it). Bogart is striking as Duke Mantee. Bette Davis is as enjoyable in this as any film I have seen her in. I have to confess that by and large I don't care for Bette Davis. She has a tendency to over enunciate every word in a way that is not merely unnatural but a little unnerving. She never seems at ease on screen. She always seems to be "acting." Still, she is well suited to this role."
A classic that will live forever!
J. Stearns | San Francisco, CA | 12/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Petrified Forest," I have found, is either loved or dismissed as boring corn. How untrue the latter statement is! Gaby Maple is naive, adventurous, but has a head on her shoulders and Bette Davis portrays her brilliantly, with little-girl sweetness but with fire lying not too deep inside. The chemistry between she and her co-star Leslie Howard is evident and they work well together. It's hard to believe just two years earlier she was cussing him out as trampy waitress Mildred in "Of Human Bondage." "Forest" just reiterates the well-known fact that Bette Davis' versatility was and is unsurpassed. Humphrey Bogart, in the role that made him a star, adds greatly as the tough gangster. The beautiful and unique setting also adds to the humbleness and sweetness of this classic film. Most films of this era WERE corn, as some critics have referred to this film, but 'boring corn' is a completely untrue statement. One who calls it boring and uninteresting wouldn't known a great film if it bit them on the rear!"
A fantastic film!
Robert Moore | 02/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent film starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. This is a must see if you are fans of these three incredibly talented actors. But even if you're not, there's still something here for everyone. Some might say that the setting is stark and resembles a stage, but that works to the films' advantage, where in the case of this classic, less is more. The performances may seem a bit over the top, but that also works to the films advantage. If you have never seen this great film, it's recommended that you do, as this is a good example of classic 1930's filmmaking. If you enjoy Leslie Howard and Bette Davis together, check out "Of Human Bondage". For those Bogie fans out there, be sure to see "To Have and Have Not" and "Key Largo"."