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“The Petrified Forest” (1936) - Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #2 Gem Mint 10.0

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

“The Petrified Forest” (1936)

Director: Archie Mayo

Writer: Robert E. Sherwood (play), Charles Kenyon, Delmer Daves

Starring: Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran, Humphrey Bogart, Joe Sawer, Porter Hall, Charley Grapewin, Paul Harvey, Eddie Acuff

Rated: Passed

Runtime: 1h 22m

Genre: Drama | Thriller

Country: United States

Language: English

Available on: Various VOD platforms

"A waitress, a hobo and a bank robber get mixed up at a lonely diner in the desert."

You might like this if you like: Archie Mayor, Robert E. Sherwood, Theater, Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran, Humphrey Bogart, Joe Sawer, Porter Hall, Charley Grapewin, Paul Harvey, Eddie Acuff

Joe Sawer (left), Humphrey Bogart (middle) and Adrian Morris (right) in "The Petrified Forest" (1936)

The Petrified Forest” (1936) directed by Archie Mayo, a petrified masterpiece, is based on Robert E. Sherwood’s 1935 Broadway play of the same name.

This is the first Leslie Howard film I saw a few years ago and decided to watch again recently for some strange reason. I was happily surprised at how wonderful it was and how much I had forgotten. Leslie Howard and Charley Grapewin (who played Jason’s father, the old timer) certainly stole the show for me. Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart were a charm to watch though ironically I found myself knowing those two before going into the film yet not knowing Howard or Grapewin and finding I liked them a lot more than anyone else in the picture.

The film truly feels like you’re watching a play. The minimal yet focused set pieces help you hone in on the actors and the dialogue a lot more than you normally would say with explosions or fancy action sequences (nothing against those, I adore the action/blockbuster genre as much as any other). It’s a quiet film yet one that puts you on the edge of your seat.

It feels like a precursor to Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” but without all the Tarantino. The setting, set pieces, it rings some familiarity. Might be the in for younger viewers who may not want to watch an old black and white film from the 30s based on a broadway play.

Leslie Howard (left), Bette Davis (middle left), Charley Grapewin (middle right) and Dick Foran (right) in "The Petrified Forest" (1936)

It’s a great character(s) piece, the subtle yet strong & bold cinematography, the tone and architecture.. I loved every second of it. “Forest” echoes a style I can’t quite pinpoint but continued to intrigue me as the film went on.

It’s a gangster, noir-western with a shakespearian quality to it. Nothing quite like it. Hope you enjoy!

Written by Sam Gall 07/09/20

CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0

"Once the allegorical motive is dismissed or relegated to a secondary level... the plot of The Petrified Forest seems admirable to me. In this film, death works like hypnosis or alcohol: it brings the recesses of the soul into the light of day." - Jorge Luis Borges, Sur

"Bogart is merely the villain, and his screentime is rather limited, but he immediately provides a striking presence." - Mike Massie, Gone With The Twins

"Mayo makes it endearing, dark, almost existential with its radiograph of American stereotypes from the years after the Great Depression. [Full review in Spanish]" - Yasser Medina, Cinemaficionados

"Very young people won't find The Petrified Forest much fun, but adults, who like wise and witty talk, with or without gunplay, should find it rewarding." - Ann Ross, Maclean's Magazine

(I'm young, Ann and I liked this film? - SGMR)

Official Trailer:

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