Seeing a younger Bogart in the prime of his forceful personality and screen presence is really something to behold. People forget the guy was already in his 40s when he got his first big break in the early 40s.
This movie captures him in his physical prime in his mid 30s playing a desperate gangster trapped in a roadside diner awaiting his final reckoning with the authorities. Also at the diner is a young waitress, Bette Davis, a teenage girl stuck in a boring hole in the wall place with only the stories of a few old timers to keep her company.
All that changes one day when a has been writer turned penniless wanderer played by Leslie Howard enters the scene and woos her with his literary prowess.
All of these personalities, and a few more I didn’t have space to mention, converge in this very tense and suspenseful film that proved to be a major turning point for most of the major players. After this movie Howard would go on to star in ‘Gone with the Wind’ while Bogart would make ‘Casablanca’ and many other classics.
This movie forumula of gangsters and decent locals trapped in an isolated setting has been repeated many times. Ten years after this film, Bogart would repeat it himself, this time on the other side of the law in ‘Key Largo’ but it was still somewhat of a fresh idea here.
The main reason to see this is for the fantastic although very theatrical (fitting since the movie is an adapted play) acting, most notably Bogart in the role that finally made him a star, even if Hollywood wouldn’t quite know what to do with said star for a few more years.
The Petrified Forest gets a four out of five: GREAT.