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WILD STRAWBERRIES: THE PETRIFIED FOREST

Director:

U.S.A. • 1936 • BLACK & WHITE • 83 MIN


THE IFI OPERATES A FILM CLUB FOR OLDER PEOPLE—CALLED ‘WILD STRAWBERRIES’ AFTER THE INGMAR BERGMAN FILM—SCREENING A FREE MOVIE EVERY MONTH.
Humphrey Bogart’s first major screen role—which brought him to prominence in the movie industry—was one which he played for many months on Broadway: gangster Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest. Though Robert Sherwood’s play about a disparate group of people held hostage in an Arizona roadside diner had been a stage hit, Jack Warner originally signed only two of the stars to reprise their roles: Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. But Leslie Howard threatened to drop out of the picture unless Warner signed Bogart. The rest is history. Bogart never forgot Howard’s generosity: years later, he and Lauren Bacall named their daughter Leslie after him.
Filmed entirely on a Warner Brothers soundstage, the camera rarely leaves the interior of the diner, and the movie is driven by such evocative but stagy dialogue as you’re the last great apostle of rugged individualism (Howard speaking to Bogart). The Petrified Forest is vital and engaging. —Jeremy Arnold, TCM.

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