Lux Radio Theater – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – 1949

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My Review

—Huston and Bogart are Awesome—

Producer: William Keighley

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

5 radio out of 5 Bogies!

The Lowdown

Two down-on-their-luck men pool their resources with an old prospector to search for gold in Mexico. You can read my original write up on the film here.

What I Thought

Lux Radio Theater pulled off a really well done adaption of the film this time around, as Walter Huston and Bogart both reprise their original roles. Of all the radio versions of films that I’ve covered for the blog so far, this one’s got to come close to most listens on my iPod, perhaps only rivaled by Bogart and Greer Garson’s adaption of The African Queen.

Essential to this greatly shortened adaption (coming in at less than an hour) is the choice to have Walter Huston’s character, Howard, narrate the story rather than some stock radio announcer. It gives the listener a much stronger character insight into Huston while serving as more than just plot advancement for the portions of the film that had to be removed.

There are a handful of actors portraying Mexican children, bandits, and natives that probably over-stereotype the accents a bit, but I suppose it’s forgivable considering the era in which it was produced. I only wish that we could have a resource for the complete cast lists of these adaptions as I would love to give credit to some of the other actors besides Bogart and Huston. The actor who took over the role for Tim Holt does a great job here, but I wasn’t able to find his name anywhere.

The Bogart Factor

With a much shorter running time, I thought it was a lot of fun to discover a slightly tweaked character for Bogart’s Fredd C. Dobbs here. With a shortened script comes more compact lines, and this leads us to see Dobbs as a much more unstable character far earlier into the story than what we saw in the film. It completely changes the character dynamics between Dobbs and Huston’s old prospector (which I’ll dive into a bit deeper below) and it makes a wonderful complimentary piece to the original film.

I’ve said it for every Bogart radio performance so far and I’ll say it again, he knew how to bring 100% to these audio versions of his films and it’s a joy to hear him recreate the roles!

The Cast

Walter Huston reprises his role as Howard, the crusty old prospector that’s been parodied countless times over the years since he gave his amazing performance for this film. Just like Huston steals the silver screen version, this entire adaption is his playground to rule as well. He sounds like he’s having a ton of fun as he holds nothing back narrating the story and interacting with Bogart and the other actors. The final scene in which he and the other actor realize that the gold is gone and they begin to laugh has a wonderful moment in which they stop for just a fraction of a second, we think it’s over, and then they begin to howl again. It was a great choice to make and Huston seems to be playing for a slightly crazier version of the film’s original character.

I also noted in my film write up that Bogart and Huston seem to be playing the devil and angel on Tim Holt’s respective shoulders as they show him both sides of humanity’s potential for greed and madness. Here though, Huston’s portrayal comes off as much more unstable, leading us to believe that the third young prospector, Curtain, is not only the most sane man in the mountains, but also a less important character overall.

I would love to be able to credit the men who played both Curtain and Cody, and perhaps some Old Time Radio lover out there can lead me to complete cast list!

Classic Bogie Moment

It must have been a real thrill to see Bogart live on stage recreating his most famous roles. One fun little surprise from this adaption was the actual crowd laughter that followed this line:

Bogart: Fred C. Dobbs ain’t a guy that likes being taken advantage of. We got no real choice at all. Bump him off!

They’re clearly not laughing because Bogart’s playing it for laughs. It’s just such a wonderfully shocking reading of the line that gives us a full perspective of how far Bogart’s willing to go in order to keep his full interests in the gold. No one could threaten a life as well as Bogie!

The Bottom Line

Probably the best radio adaption of a Bogart film that I’ve heard so far.

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