Based on the Robert Sherwood play, directed by Archie Mayo and starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, the film The Petrified Forest premiered on February 6th, 1936. A stage-play put on film, the setting is a diner in Arizona. Leslie Howard plays a failed writer – or so he believes – who wanders into the diner to grab a meal or at least a cup of coffee. With his tale of woe he infatuates waitress Bette Davis – who has dreams of her own and just as things heat up between the two, Bogart, as bad guy Duke Mantee, and his gang show up – on the run – and hold the whole diner hostage. After that, things get wonderfully philosophical as life, death, hopes and dreams are discussed by all.
This was Bogart’s big “break-through” in film – he had played the role of Duke Mantee on Broadway with Leslie Howard. Hollywood legend has it that the original casting for the part was to go to Edward G. Robinson, but that Leslie Howard “demanded” Bogart for the role - or Bogart pleaded with Howard to get him the role. Regardless Bogie got it.
Ironically twelve years later Robinson would play a very similar Duke Mantee-like role in the film Key Largo with Bogie playing a much more assertive Leslie Howard-like role and Lauren Bacall playing a much more “attentive” – at least to Bogie - Bette Davis-like role.
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