Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Real Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya): Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!

Humphrey Bogart is my favorite actor, and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is my favorite Bogart movie.

But Bogart didn't utter the most famous line from that movie, which premiered on this date in 1948.

That was Alfonso Bedoya, the Mexican actor who played Gold Hat, the bandit who famously protested that "I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"

The American Film Institute ranked that line 36th in its list of the Top 100 movie quotes. No other line from "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" made the list.

There were some other great lines in that movie. There were some great performances, too. But, for whatever reason, Bedoya's line is what people always seem to remember.

Well, it was his most memorable role, and the line has become somewhat iconic. So I suppose that is understandable.

But it is still worth remembering that Bedoya's role was a comparatively small one. And it would qualify as a supporting role only because it had far too few lines for it to be considered a leading role.

Bogart probably was regarded as the lead actor in the movie, but his performance wasn't nominated for an Oscar. I don't know why. I've seen all the performances that were nominated that year, and I didn't think any of them were better than Bogart's.

Howard (Walter Huston): Water's precious. Sometimes it's more precious than gold.

Walter Huston won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His son, John Huston, won Oscars for directing and writing.

The movie itself was nominated for Best Picture but lost to "Hamlet." Oh, well. It's tough to beat Shakespeare. Those tales have been around for centuries.

The story was a morality play worthy of those that were popular in Europe before Shakespeare's time. Morality plays tend to be conflicts between good and evil, and, admittedly, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" didn't necessarily invoke God or the devil or religious themes in general — well, not directly — as most morality plays do, but it did focus on greed, which, it seems to me, is in the same ballpark.

It did, however, suggest that 1 Timothy was right when it said, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil," so perhaps there is a strong religious theme at work here.

Three Americans set off on a trip to prospect for gold in the wilds of Mexico. Initially, their intentions are noble, and those intentions include dividing the gold they find evenly, but greed takes over as the piles of gold begin to grow.

Bogart's character underwent the most radical change, going from a generally decent (if flawed) guy to a greedy, conniving, paranoid character, a virtual Jekyll–Hyde role that must have been fun for him to play.

(If nothing else, it was good prep for his later role as Captain Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny.")

Ironically, given the status the movie has achieved with modern fans, my understanding is that it wasn't particularly well received by the public 65 years ago.

Apparently, many moviegoers of the time did not want to see Bogart playing such a reprehensible character.
Dobbs (Bogart): Nobody puts one over on Fred C. Dobbs.

Those moviegoers deprived themselves of one of the great acting jobs in movie history. It was a real treasure.

But if you have never seen it, you don't have to deprive yourself much longer. Turner Classic Movies will be showing "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" Saturday afternoon at 4:30 (Central).