Movie Critique - High Sierra

For review of all movies starring Humphrey Bogart, go here.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Movie that changed careers; gave the viewers entertainment; shows shades of grey of humanity; all along travelling through a well-knit and well-directed plot.

High Sierra is a 1941 robbery-heist film; an early film noir; based on a 1941 novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett. Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, Alan Curtis, Arthur Kennedy, and Joan Leslie are among the main cast. Produced by Mark Hellinger, the film was directed by Raoul Walsh.

Roy Earle (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) is released from jail on a governor's pardon; but is immediately tasked on a heist job. He drives up to the Sierra Mountains to meet up with three other men who would partner with him in the heist; where he meets Marie Garson (portrayed by Ida Lupino). But things go wrong on the day of the heist, and now law enforcement is behind Roy Earle for murder, theft and more.

For Humphrey Bogart, this was the first film where he got a leading role, albeit it was of an antagonist. This film also turned Bogart from supporting cast to leading man, eventually landing him the roles of Sam Spade in 1941 The Maltese Falcon and Rick Blaine in the famed 1942 Casablanca that shot him to fame as a romantic hero. The film was a turning point for Bogart in every aspect in his career.

The career path that Bogart went through reminds me so much of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) went through - from TV serials to supporting actor in films to antagonist to finally main stream romantic hero.  Only difference being Bogart went from stage to film while SRK went from TV to film.

Bogart's Earle is a very complex character. He is not simply a gangster; but has compassion towards a crippled; helps a family in need; loves his dog Pard; and is also fair with the loot he has in how he wanted it shared. He loves farming more than being a gangster; loves the dancer who ends up tagging along with them. Such complexity is the character, and Bogart played it perfectly.

Ida Lupino was top billed for this film considering her successful 1940 film They Drive by Night, which again starred Bogart. Later versions of the film had Bogart being top billed in the credits.

There was animosity between Lupino and Bogart on the set, but it never showed in the excellent chemistry they had between them on-screen. Lupino's Marie is what you expect a gangster's girlfriend would be, except she has shades of goodness in her just as Bogart's Earle has.

Cornel Wilde who portrays the role of Louis Mendoza, gets his first film where he is actually credited for. He goes on to become a successful actor himself, getting an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his 1945 film A Song to Remember.

Bogart himself being an Oscar winner a good 10 years later; there are two more Oscar nominees in the film - Arthur Kennedy who portrays the role of Red Hattery and Henry Travers who portrays the role of Pa Goodhue.

The filming had taken place in actual location of Sierra Nevada in California; in particular the Whitney Portal up Mount Whitney. The opening credits curve over the mountain top just as how wind or road curves around.

Movie that changed careers; gave the viewers entertainment; shows shades of grey of humanity; all along travelling through a well-knit and well-directed plot. Another great movie in the line of Bogart's career.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The dog playing the part of Pard, Roy's dog, in the film, is in fact Bogart's own dog, Zero.

b. Two radio adaptations were broadcasted by The Screen Guild Theater - in 1942 with Bogart and Claire Trevor in the cast; in 1944 with Bogart and Lupino reprising their roles.

c. Film was remade twice - in 1945 as a western titled Colorado Territory also directed by Raoul Walsh; and in 1955 as I Died a Thousand Times.

d. Note the initials "LP" on the mountain during the chase scene. That stands for Lone Pine in California showing that that is where the outdoor scenes were filmed.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. When first time Roy meets Pa Goodhue and his family, he introduces himself as "Collins". But when he meets them the second time, Pa addresses Roy as "Roy". How did Pa know his real name when Roy never gave it up.

b. When Roy is talking to Mendoza, shadow of a boom mike can be seen between them on the far back wall.

c. When Mendoza gets up from his chair, his handkerchief is inside the pocket; but when he turns around it is suddenly half way out.

d. When Marie comes to Roy's cabin running away from the two men she was sharing the cabin with, she comes empty handed. But then she changes into a nightgown before going to bed. Where does she get the nightgown from?

e. Crew member visible in the reflection of the glass door to the store.

f. When Mendoza had never met the dog Pard, how was he able to reveal it to the cops when he was caught. Mendoza never sees Roy with the dog in any of the scenes.

g. You can see the pad that Roy jumps on to when he gets shot, before rolling down the mountain.


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