Great Depression and pre-noir mood in 'The Petrified Forest'
The article analyses, as a case study, a gangster movie of the 1930s, 'The Petrified Forest' (1936) by Archie L. Mayo, from the homonymous play by Robert E. Sherwood. The movie is somehow atypical if compared to the classic gangster movie, because of it’s disillusioned and fatalist atmosphere, which foreshadows the noir genre. The moral skid of the two main male characters – interpreted by Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart – skillfully represents, apparently in opposite, but in reality specular ways, the American mood during the Great Depression. Furthermore, the metaphorical setting of a saloon in the middle of nowhere, nearby the Petrified Forest of the desert of Arizona (where, due to a sand storm, both the gang of outlaws led by Duke Mantee – Bogart – and its hostages are held, with the errant poet played by Howard and the daughter of the owners of the saloon, interpreted by Bette Davis, among the latter), together with the dialogues from Sherwood’s play, constantly refer to a ‘petrified’ America, deprived of its values.
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