Humphrey Bogart - Roy "Mad Dog" Earle
Ida Lupino - Marie Garson
Joan Leslie - Velma Baughmam
Henry Hull - "Doc" Banton
Henry Travers - Pa Goodhue
Barton MacLane - Jack Kranmer
Raoul Walsh - Director
Mark Hellinger - Producer
John Huston - Screenwriter
W.R. Burnett - Original Novel
Tony Gaudio - Cinematographer
Adolph Deutsch - Film Score
Author W.R. Burnett (Little Caesar (1930), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), etc.) was working on a script at Warners in the late 1930s about the notorious John Dillinger, who specialized in armed bank robberies and who terrorized the Midwest in the early 1930s. He was declared "Public Enemy Number One" before he was killed in 1934 by FBI agents. "There was a lot of resistance in those days from certain associations," said Burnett years later. "When they [Warners] put out the publicity that we--the author of Little Caesar and the ace Dillinger reporter [Charles Blake]--were going to make Dillinger, boy, did that get a reaction! Telephone calls and letters of protest."
The film was cancelled. But Burnett, steeped in Dillinger research, went trout fishing at June Lake in the Sierras, near Yosemite. "I got to thinking," Burnett told Ken Mate and Pat McGilligan, "what a wonderful hideaway that would be for hoodlums . . . Nobody went there in those days . . . Also, there was a dog there. The dog didn't seem to belong to anybody . . . and he took to me. And a black man who said that he brought bad luck to people." So all of this blend was used by Burnett in his novel, High Sierra (1940), which was purchased by Warners and assigned to John Huston to adapt. He was later joined by Burnett on the screenplay and Raoul Walsh was set to direct (Huston made his directorial debut some months later with The Maltese Falcon).
Paul Muni was slated for the lead but he did not want to play another criminal--regardless of the approach. Burnett claimed in 1982 that Humphrey Bogart talked George Raft, choice number two, out of taking the role because it didn't suit him. But Bogart definitely wanted the part, which suited Huston, associate producer Mark Hellinger, and Walsh just fine.
The story has Roy Earle (Bogart), based somewhat on Dillinger, being pardoned from prison and traveling to California to prepare for the robbery of a resort hotel. In the process he helps to obtain an operation for a crippled girl's (Joan Leslie) club foot. Later, she refuses his marriage proposal. Meantime, he becomes involved with a former dance-hall woman (Ida Lupino), a stray dog, "Pard," and various others. Things go badly at the robbery and Earle is forced to shoot a watchman. Eventually, the police chase him into the Sierras until he must leave his car and continue on foot. After a stand off high in the Sierras, Earle is killed by the police. Marie (Lupino) and Pard mourn at the site and Marie is comforted by the thought that Earle is now free.
A good deal of the film was shot on location in California at Lone Pine on mountain roads and Mount Whitney Pass in the Sierras. Also Big Bear, Arrowhead Springs, Cedar Lake, and Chatsworth. The film was well-received critically and commercially, elevating both Bogart and Lupino to star status. There were two remakes: Colorado Territory (1949)--a Western with Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo in the Bogart and Lupino roles--and I Died A Thousand Times (1955) with Jack Palance and Shelley Winters in the leads.
In direct contrast to his music approach for The Mask of Dimitrios, Adolph Deutsch definitely favored melody, syncopation, and simple atmospherics, in addition to some heavier accents, for his score to High Sierra. And it all makes for a memorable listening experience.
--RUDY BEHLMER, from the liner notes,
Classic Film Scores by Adolph Deutsch.
A selection of High Sierra related films.
Find High Sierra on eBay.com
A selection of High Sierra related books.
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