Director: John Huston
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt
Plot: Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
John Huston was fascinated by mysterious author B. Traven, who was a recluse living in Mexico. Traven approved of the director and his screenplay (by letter, obviously), and sent his intimate friend Hal Croves to the location to be a technical advisor and translator for $150 a week. The general consensus is that Croves was in fact Traven, though he always denied this. Huston was happy not to query him on the subject but his then-wife Evelyn Keyes was certain Croves was the mysterious author, believing that he was continually giving himself away, saying "I" when it should have been "he", and using phrases that were exactly the same as those to be found in Traven's letters to Huston. All very ironic, especially considering that Traven was offered $1000 a week to act as technical advisor on the film. It is known that "B. Traven" was a pen name, and Traven's true identity remains a mystery to this day.
Walter Huston, father of director John Huston, won the Academy Award for best supporting actor. John won for best direction. This was the first father/son win.
John Huston stated that working with his father on this picture and his dad's subsequent Oscar win were among the favorite moments of his life.
One of the first American films to be made almost entirely on location outside the USA.
John Huston played one of his infamous practical jokes on Bruce Bennett in the campfire scene in which he eats a plate of stew. Bennett knew that his character was starving so he wolfed down the food as quickly as possible. Huston then demanded another take. And another. In both extra takes the rapidly filling-up Bennett again had to eat a large plate of stew. Unbeknownst to him, Huston had been happy with the first take. The cameras weren't even rolling for the second and the third. He just wanted to see how much food Bennett could lower before he became too stuffed. As soon as the joke was revealed, Huston added insult to injury by calling for a lunch break.
A doctor was assigned to the unit in Mexico and one night he had to attend to John Huston, who had an adverse reaction to marijuana, having smoked it for the first time with his father. He never touched the stuff again.
The movie's line "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" was voted as the #36 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
Humphrey Bogart started losing his hair in 1947, round about the time he was making Dark Passage (1947), partly because of hormone shots he was taking to improve his chances of having a child with wife Lauren Bacall (although his excessive drinking and lack of vitamin B were probably also factors in his hair loss). He was completely bald by the time he arrived in Mexico. Once on location, Bogart started taking vitamin B shots, and some of his hair grew back. But he did sport a wig throughout the entire shoot, albeit one that was artfully muddied and matted to cover up the joins.
There were scenes in which Walter Huston had to speak fluent Spanish, a language he did not know off camera. To fill this need, John Huston hired a Mexican to record the lines, and then the elder Huston memorized them so well that many assumed he knew the language like a native.
Just as John Huston was starting to shoot scenes in Tampico, Mexico, the production was shut down inexplicably by the local government. It turns out that a local newspaper printed a false story that accused the filmmakers of making a production that was unflattering to Mexico. Fortunately, two of Huston's associates, Diego Rivera and Miguel Covarrubias, went to bat for the director with the President of Mexico. The libelous accusations were dropped.
The little boy who sells Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) the portion of the winning lottery ticket is Robert Blake (of "Little Rascals" and Baretta (1975) fame).
B. Traven did not agree with John Huston's decision to cast Walter Huston as Howard, the grizzled prospector. He originally envisioned MGM contract star Lewis Stone in the role, but he eventually came to see the wisdom behind the director's choice to put Walter Huston in the role.
John Huston played a prank on Humphrey Bogart. In the scene where he has to reach under a rock for hidden gold and is told that an extremely venomous Gila monster had crawled there, Huston put a mousetrap where he had to reach. Bogie, acting appropriately as if a Gila monster actually was under the rock, jumped several feet backwards when the mousetrap snapped on his finger.
Much of the film is set in the mountainous area surrounding the village of Jungapeo, near San Juan Purua, Mexico. Director John Huston and art director John Hughes found the spot after an exhaustive 8,000 mile scouting trip through Mexico.
Humphrey Bogarts portrayal of 'Dobbs' in this film was cited by Steven Spielberg as the main inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones.
Director John Huston has a cameo as the man who Dobbs begs money from three times early in the film.
John Huston's original filmed depiction of Dobbs' death was more graphic - as it was in the book - than the one that eventually made it onto the screen. When Gold Hat strikes Dobbs with his machete, Dobbs is decapitated. Huston shot Dobbs' (fake) head rolling into the waterhole (there's a quick shot of Gold Hat's accomplices reacting to Dobbs' rolling head that remains in the film and in the very next shot you can see the water rippling where it rolled in). The 1948 censors would not have allowed that, so Huston camouflaged the cut shot with a repeat shot of Gold Hat striking Dobbs. Warner Bros' publicity department released a statement that Humphrey Bogart was "disappointed the scene couldn't be shown in all its graphic glory". Bogart's reaction: "What's wrong with showing a guy getting his head cut off?"
With a budget exceeding $3.5 million, this was the most expensive production ever mounted by Warner Brothers up until 1948, with the added uneasiness of it being shot in Mexico. To protect their investment the studio bosses insisted Bogart's character, Fred C. Dobbs remain alive until the very end of the script (after initially not wanting Dobbs to die at all). John Huston steadfastly resisted studio interference. While critically acclaimed, the film was a financial disappointment during its initial release.