The Screen Guild Theater Presents: The Petrified Forest – 1940

pet forest

My Review

–Needs More Bogart–

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

For my full synopsis of the plot to The Petrified Forest click here.

What I Thought

This one was just another amazing jewel to be found as an extra on the “Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection” box set. While the play/film was adapted for radio three times, this is the only one starring Bogart as Duke Mantee, and the 24-film box set is the only place that I’ve found to hear it.

The audio is a little muffled, but it’s certainly listenable. My initial gut reaction was something along the lines of, “Where the heck is Bogart?!?” as he doesn’t show up until the very end of Act I, and even after that, his part seems to be considerably shortened from the film version. Yes, it’s a radio adaption, meaning it was shortened by at least 1/3 or more for the broadcast, but still – where’s the Bogart love?

Then I looked back at the date of the airing – January 7, 1940. High Sierra was still a year away, and up until that point, Bogart had mostly been playing a second fiddle gangster to the likes of Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, or helming his own crime pics at a much lower B-level.

It’s Tyrone Power and Joan Bennett that get the real time to shine here, and both of them do fine. I’m a little surprised by how much I bought into their romance after being more than a little partial to the pairing of Leslie Howard and Bette Davis from the film. But the chemistry is real here, sharp and energetic, and Power’s drifting writer feels a little more willing to help Bennett’s pouty waitress out of love, rather than pity, as Howard was towards Davis in the original.

Of course, just like the film, the real fireworks start when Bogart comes in. I’ll save my thoughts on his performance until I get to ‘The Bogart Factor’ below, but I will say that the combination of Power/Bennett/Bogart fell a little flat for me.

Overall, it’s interesting to hear Bogart reprise his famous gangster role for the second out of what would be three performances (the original film, this radio broadcast, and then the made-for-TV remake with Bacall fifteen years later), and while it’s not a must listen for casual fans, most Old Time Radio and Bogart enthusiasts will find enough here to make it worthwhile.

The Bogart Factor

Straight to the point – reprising the gangster-on-the-run role of Duke Mantee, Bogart’s third billed and only gets his most famous lines to use. We also don’t get any of the amazing caged tiger-like mannerisms that helped add an incredible amount of tension to the film. I’d also offer that he doesn’t seem quite as enthused for this broadcast as he did in several of his other films that were adapted for the radio. I haven’t decided yet if it’s really his fault, or if the role of Duke Mantee just needs to be seen as much as it needs to be heard. Plus – he doesn’t even get called out for the trivia game at the end with Power and Bennett even though he was the only original cast member from the film!

The Rest of the Cast

Tyrone Power comes off the best out of the entire cast as he takes over for Leslie Howard playing the wandering and depressed writer, Alan Squier. Power has a great voice for radio and the presence to pull off a solid character. Again, like Bogart, the part of Alan Squier has been cut down quite a bit, but there’s still plenty left to work with as Power carries the bulk of the weight in this production.

Joan Bennett is just fine in as the lonely cafe waitress, Gabby Maple, but Bette Davis has cast a long shadow and it’s not easy to get out from underneath of it. Bennett doesn’t give a bad performance, but it’s just low key enough that I wouldn’t have had any idea it was her if she hadn’t been listed in the credits.

The Bottom Line

Only for Bogart and Old Time Radio enthusiasts, but since it’s a rare find, those are probably the only folks who are going to listen to it.

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