25 October 2006 | bkoganbing
'Mad Dog' Meets a Poetic Finish
Humphrey Bogart's screen name in High Sierra is Roy 'Mad Dog' Earle. But it's clear from the outset that if Bogart is anything he's not crazy. Bogart may have been a wild guy in his youth, but he's now a middle-aged man who is fully aware that he can't do anything else, but continue in a life crime. He's got the resume and the reputation for that and nothing else. What else can he do, but accept an offer to crew chief a heist at an expensive resort hotel in Nevada.
He can't pick the men he'd like, they're probably all dead or in the joint. He gets some young punks assigned to him by Barton MacLane who is acting as a middleman for boss Donald MacBride out on the west coast. Bogey gets Alan Curtis, Arthur Kennedy, and an informant at the hotel, Cornel Wilde. Curtis and Kennedy are getting their hormones in overdrive over Ida Lupino.
On the way west Bogey meets up with a near do well family headed by Henry Travers and he starts crushing out on teenager Joan Leslie. They represent to him a simpler time before he took up crime as a living.
The first half of the film sets up the characters, the second part is the robbery and it's aftermath. In that second half High Sierra moves at a really good clip. Not too many went out for popcorn when it was shown in theaters back in the day.
High Sierra was one of three films that George Raft turned down and were given to Humphrey Bogart that established him as a leading man. The other two were The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Raft must have had some agent back in the day.
Of course Bogart is playing a gangster, but this one is a three dimensional character and a fine piece of work. It represented a big advance from some of the villains he played at Warner Brothers during the late Thirties.
High Sierra was directed by Raoul Walsh and another Hollywood icon director, John Huston, co-wrote the screenplay. There's a lot of similarity with this and Huston's later classic, The Asphalt Jungle.
High Sierra was remade twice, as a western with the miscast Joel McCrea in Bogart's role and in the Fifties as I Died a Thousand Times with Jack Palance. I daresay it could be made again quite easily for this generation, it's story is timeless.