Movie #123: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Director: John Huston

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, and Bruce Bennett

Academy Awards (1949):

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Walter Huston

Best Director: John Huston

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Motion Picture: Warner Bros.

Best Writing, Screenplay: John Huston

“Ah, as long as there’s no find, the noble brotherhood will last but when the piles of gold begin to grow… that’s when the trouble starts.”

Down on their luck Americans Fred Dobbs (Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Holt) search for work in Mexico in 1925.  They recruit Howard (Huston), an old-time prospector, to search for gold in the Sierra Madre mountains.

This film is an interesting character study on greed.  It’s interesting to see Bogart play a character so different from what he usually does.  He quickly gets paranoid and possessive at the first site of gold.  Though he’s not a character I cared for, his performance probably should have gotten him an Oscar nomination.  Huston’s Howard represents wisdom and experience, a real voice of reason.  Curtin, presumably younger than his fellow prospectors, waves back and forth in his loyalties within the group, and Holt gives a great performance in this at times conflicted character.

An interesting scene for me was when Curtin and Howard are discussing what they’ll do with the money they earn.  Each seems to have a good grasp of their lives after prospecting.  When Dobbs joins the conversation, though, he basically runs through all the vices and has no direction.  The contrast helps build the tension and distinguishes him from his fellow prospectors.

I also liked the pacing and balance of dramatic, comedic, and adventurous elements of the film.  Walter Huston gives an Oscar-worthy performance that has wisdom, sarcasm, and the moral compass the audience tends to follow when navigating a story like this.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was filmed largely on location in Mexico.  It also cost about 3 million dollars to make, a large sum at the time.  John Huston does a great job in filming with purpose.  There’s a good balance of long, wide shots, specifically when the Mexican gang approaches the group. I thought it was funny that the guys had a somewhat nonchalant attitude, knowing the gang was approaching but still taking time to eat some beans before the shootout began.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was entertaining and interesting to watch.  It’s been on my radar for a long time, and I’m glad I finally watched it.  I probably won’t see it again, but definitely recommend it.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars