The Greatest films of all time: 42.The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)(USA)


Since “Greed” of Erich von Stroheim in 1924, and the “Gold Rush” comedy of Charles Chaplin in 1925, there had not been any film to address the greed of man for gold and wealth, the main incentive of white Europeans to immigrate to the new world of America. The film, perhaps the greatest work of the American Screen writer and filmmaker, John Huston is an adaptation of B. Tavern’s 1927 novel of the same name. John Huston who gave his father a role in the film as “Howard” or “the old man” granted him an academy award for the best supporting actor, started his film career as a writer. His first triumph in script writing was for the third Hollywood version of “Maltese Falcon” in 1941, and “the Killers” in 1946 of Ernest Hemingway, his only work adaptation on the silver screen that this great American literary liked.     


While John Huston had already tried in directing with a few minor works, “Maltese Falcon” was his first great achievement that was hailed to this day by the critics.  But “The treasure of Sierra Madre” was his first great classic that not only him, but placed his friend and actor, Humphrey Bogart a high spot in the history of cinema who later on once again surpassed expectations in “The African Queen”. As we will see the greatness of these two works of John Huston and Bogart are in their clear distinction from the other Hollywood films of then and later, specially where Bogart plays mostly the same roles of a macho or man of testosterone in crime dramas. Watching Bogart on the screen, particularly for his fans picturing him always as a hero, in these two distinct films as a low-life with torn clothes, dirty hands and blackened face, alone not only surprising and award winning, but jaw dropping and unbelievable to this day. Only in these two films with the guidance and assistance of John Huston, Bogart was able to stand out as a capable actor, who was robbed in his other films just for commerciality.


A Classic of difference:

Since American films coming out of Hollywood from its inception to this day, are principally commercial and crowd pleasing, to be classic and great, they have to be different. Even many of great American films of the past and present have had the commercial and box office elements, and have been of action, adventure, and in drama, they have been melodrama appealing to the public. Rare American films, as the time has gone by and most innovations and novelties have been done, possess a classic masterpiece element to place them aside the greatest world cinematic arts. One of these rarity is “The treasure of Sierra Madre” and John Huston and Bogart were both lucky or talented to repeat this once again later on in “The African Queen” together.


This great classis was the first Hollywood to be filmed on location and outside US and Hollywood, in Mexico. It has also been the first for Bogart, as it mentioned earlier to have an unconventional role. It also involved John Huston’s father, Walter Huston in a pivotal supporting role that earned him an Oscar, where he thanked his son officially for having given him such a role to show his potential. It also was one of the very first American film to run another language than English, Spanish of Mexican, without translation on the original screen version, though understood well by the audience, showing the power of the visual art of cinema. This fact was against a background of a very dialectical film, having many dialogues, between the principal players, often too philosophical for ordinary audience who had gone perhaps to enjoy an action western with their idol actor, Humphrey Bogart.

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