Walter Huston in ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ for the ‘O Canada! Blogathon’

How to describe this movie. It’s an adventure film. It’s a drama. It’s a Western (or neo-Western). It is also a classic film and, as it happens, one of the first Hollywood movies to be shot on location outside the US (in Mexico).

The story in a nutshell revolves around two unemployed Americans down on their luck (I can’t write that without thinking about Bugs Bunny) who run into a third guy—a grizzled prospector named Howard, who convinces the other two men to search for gold with him.

Via Letterboxd

Now, even though one of the two men is Fred C. Dobbs, Mr. Bottom Line (played by the formidable Humphrey Bogart) and the other is the slightly-less-greedy Bob Curtin (played by Tim Holt), it is the third man (no, not Orson Welles! 🙂 ) who makes this film appropriate for the O Canada! Blogathon.

While Humphrey Bogart may get to deliver a most disturbing and powerful performance as a man blinded by the lure of gold to the point of reaching extreme paranoia about his partners, it is Walter Huston who serves in the audience’s stead as a (mostly) rational observer and giver of advice.

Via Surrender to the Void

Born in Toronto, Ontario, on April 5, 1883, his birth name was Walter Thomas Houghston. Good call on the spelling change, dude. Huston began as a stage actor and established a Broadway career, but switched to movie roles after talkies came into vogue. His acting was critically acclaimed, but it wouldn’t be until later that he’d land the role he’d be most remembered for.

Via Senses of Cinema

As it happens, Walter Huston has roles in two of my favorite films: Howard, in this one, and (the uncredited) Captain Jacoby in The Maltese Falcon. Both films directed by his son, John, no less.

I could write a review filled with references to the onset and growth of Fred C. Dobbs’ madness (“Nobody puts one over on Fred C. Dobbs.”), the encounter with the Mexican bandits (“We don’t need no stinking badges!”), and the tension and suspense Dobbs’ paranoia creates among the three men.

But to focus on the Man from Canada, Walter Huston absolutely shines in his role as 1) the inciting force that sets off the adventure; 2) the wise mentor (let’s just say he knows his gold from his fool’s gold); 3) keen observer of human nature (it is Howard who predicts disaster even before they’ve hit the road, let alone when Dobbs starts going off the rails); and 4) comic relief.

Via 1001: A Film Odyssey

Because this makes me laugh every time.

Apparently, the Motion Picture Academy agreed with me. Huston received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role, as well as a Golden Globe.

As a side note, John Huston won Best Director for the movie, making them the first father and son to win at the same ceremony.

Have I mentioned that Huston was also a singer? Well … he was. 🙂

Submitted with thanks to Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy for co-hosting the O Canada! Blogathon!

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8 Responses to Walter Huston in ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ for the ‘O Canada! Blogathon’

  1. I sometimes forget that Walter Huston was Canadian! Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of those classics that I still have to see ( I know, I know). Your enthusiastic article certainly give me a good reason to hurry and finally watch it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      It’s one of those movies I can watch repeatedly. 🙂

      I had no idea until this blogathon that Walter Huston was Canadian. Very cool, eh? 🙂

      Like

      • Debbi says:

        I enjoyed writing this one. I loved learning more about Walter Huston. I had no idea about the singing until now.

        Thanks for your comment! It is a highly watchable movie. 🙂

        Like

  2. I love, LOVE this film, and I liked what you said about Walter Huston’s character being our anchor to reason and sanity in this film.

    Huston is pitch-perfect here, and even though he has less screen time than Bogart and Holt, he is no less important. In fact, I always feel a real pang when he’s no longer in the movie – I always MISS him and his crusty character.

    Thanks, Debbi, for joining the blogathon. It wouldn’t be right to honour Canadian filmmakers without honouring Walter Huston! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Debbi says:

      I enjoyed writing this one. I loved learning more about Walter Huston. I had no idea about the singing until now.

      Thanks for your comment! It is a highly watchable movie. 🙂

      Like

  3. Your Bugs Bunny and Orson Welles mentions made my morning (although I lost some of my coffee through a snort).

    It is indeed a point of pride that an actor of Walter Huston’s calibre was Canadian-born. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is only one of his memorable performances and the Academy recognition is something that should get no arguments from fans.

    Liked by 1 person

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