The Petrified Forest (1936)

The Petrified Forest
Bette Davis, Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart

'The Petrified Forest' is a thriller movie made in 1936, directed by Archie Mayo and starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, and Humphrey Bogart. It is the movie in which Bogart made his name to become a top Hollywood actor. The film is an adaptation of the stage play of the same name by Robert E. Sherwood, in which Bogart and Howard also starred. The movie was a great commercial success but received no Academy Award nominations.

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Most of the action of the movie takes place in a desert diner in southwest USA. Leslie Howard plays Squier, a drifter-philosopher who wanders into the lonely life of Gabrielle, played by Bette Davis, the waitress and daughter of the diner's owner, Jason Maple, played by Porter Hall.

Their lives are forever changed by the appearance of Duke Mantee, played by Humphrey Bogart, a gangster who is fleeing police pursuit. He comes in with his gang and takes hostage all the occupants of the diner.

After Mantee's appearance the film centres on the bonding of the hostages and on the differences and similarities between the personalities of Squier and Mantee. The police eventually close in on the diner and the film ends with a shootout and with only Gabrielle having a future to look forward to.


The Broadway production of 'The Petrified Forest' ran from January to June, 1935. The star was Leslie Howard and and it was he who insisted that the role of Duke Mantee should go to his friend, Humphrey Bogart. The production was a great success due in no small way to Bogart's clever performance which showed for the first time in his career, his ability to play tough guy roles and not just romantic leads.

When the film was being cast Warner Brothers wanted to put Edward G. Robinson, an established "tough guy" actor, in the Mantee role, but again, Leslie Howard supported Bogart. Bogart never forgot this act of kindness and later named his daughter, Leslie Howard Bogart in honor of his friend.

Main Cast

Leslie Howard ... Alan Squier
Bette Davis ... Gabrielle Maple
Humphrey Bogart ... Duke Mantee
Genevieve Tobin ... Mrs. Chisholm
Dick Foran ... Boze Hertzlinger
Joe Sawyer ... Jackie
Porter Hall ... Jason Maple
Charley Grapewin ... Gramp Maple
Paul Harvey ... Mr. Chisholm
Eddie Acuff ... Lineman

Cast Notes

Leslie Howard (1893-1943) As an established stage and movie actor he was the star of the film, and he gives an admirable performance as the disillusioned drifter, Squier. His best known role - Ashley Wilkes, in 'Gone with the Wind' in 1939- was yet to come.
Bette Davis (1908-1989) One of the top actresses of film, television and theater for three decades from the 1930's, Bette Davis won two Best Actress Oscars and was nominated a further eight times. She excels in the pivotal role of the naive Gabrielle and the chemistry between her and Leslie Howard is a pleasure to see.
Humphrey Bogart (1899-1956) Until 'The Petrified Forest' Bogart had been a peripheral figure in Hollywood, appearing in dozens of movies, often as a supporting romantic interest. Although he doesn't appear until the second half of the movie, he dominates from there on in and his moody, menacing acting prevents the film from being a static, stagebound adaptation. He apparently based the monosyllabic, haunted Mantee on real life criminal John Dillinger, and he makes his creation one of the screen's first truly frightening gangsters.


Director ... Archie Mayo
Producer ... Hal B. Wallis (executive producer, uncredited)
Screenplay ... Charles Kenyon, Delmer Daves
From the Play by ... Robert E. Sherwood
Music ... Bernhard Kaun
Cinematography ... Sol Polito
Studio ... Warner Bros.
Release date ... February 6, 1936
Running time ... 83 minutes

Academy Awards

No Nominations: