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USA 1941
Directed by
Raoul Walsh
100 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

High Sierra

Originally intended for George Raft, High Sierra was Humphrey Bogart’s first leading role although Ida Lupino received top-billing (Warner Brothers released The Maltese Falcon the same year which Raft had also turned down and which made Bogart a star).

Written by John Huston and W.R. Burnett from the latter’s novel the film is relatively unusual in the hard-boiled gangster genre in its depiction of the contradictory nature of its main characters – Bogey’s Roy "Mad Dog" Earle is a remorseless career criminal with a soft spot for life’s victims, the sweet country girl he falls for is a dull little twerp, whilst the woman he reluctantly takes up with, Lupino’s Marie, is for all her faults more attuned to him in heart and mind. This complexity is also the film’s shortcoming with the script tending to belabour its points, not least in the final shoot-out in the Sierras and its closing shot of Marie giving expression to the ultimate outsider fantasy.

Walsh clutters the film with hokily comedic elements such as the goggle-eyed Negro (Willie Best), a family of hayseeds and and a lovable mutt but Bogart. looking like he has crawled out of Brotherhood bin, is wonderful as the aging and doomed criminal, with Ida Lupino also strong as the girl who loves him.  

FYI: The good parts of the film are so good. Walsh remade the film in 1949 as a Western, Colorado Territory. It was also remade in 1955 as I Died a Thousand Times with Jack Palance and Shelley Winters in the lead.




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