Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1936
Directed by
Archie Mayo
82 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Petrified Forest

A gangster film in subject rather than style, this adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood's hit Broadway play features Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart from the play's original stage run together with Bette Davis as an independent-minded young gal who find themselves in each other's company in an hermetic and loquacious date with destiny set in a dust-bowl roadhouse in the middle of Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park.

Acknowledged as the break-through role for the thirty-seven year-old Bogart whose film career had foundered with minor roles in forgettable movies, Bogart, looking like a proto-werewolf imitating Jimmy Cagney,invests the part of Duke Mantee with a bitter fatalism whilst headliner Howard dishes up his trademark dreamy-eyed reflections and his co-star Davis is engaging (albeit at twenty-eight too old to play a character in her late teens) as the romantic young woman who falls for him.

Sherwood's dialogue balances verbal barbs and arabesques with élan and director Mayo keeps proceedings close to their stage origins, including obviously painted backdrops, in order to focus attention on the aesthetic and moral issues which, remarkably for its time, take in the status of the black man and (white) women in the established order of things. And in what other American movie of the time (or really, any other) would you have a heroine who reads the poetry of François Villon?




Want something different?

random vintage best worst