Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday's Film Adaption: High Sierra by WR Burnett

The tormented man at the center of W.R. Burnett's High Sierra is a notorious criminal whom the newspapers call "Mad Dog" Roy Earle. Earle is every bit the criminal the newspapers depict, but he is also a complicated soul. Earle, the tragic hero of the novel, is a horribly flawed man, a violent criminal who still retains a conscience.

Earle is been moved by the plight of the physically impaired woman named Velma Goodhue, whom he resolves to help, imagining, somehow, that she will be his. After a holdup he plans with Red, Babe, and Marie (who has now fallen in love with him), Earle takes his share of the money to Velma for an operation to repair her clubfoot. But the holdup has disastrous results. Red and Babe are killed, and Roy goes on the lam with Marie. The runaway outlaws have nowhere to turn. Eventually, Velma leaves. Earle sends Marie away to meet him ultimately in a mountain pass in the High Sierras, a rendezvous in the sky in which all that occurs will not take place as envisioned.

The plot of High Sierra is remorselessly fast and multithreaded, but Roy Earle trumps our interest. Burnett manage to pain a rich and deeply compelling man without sentimentalizing him. Here is a plot with a tough, bleak, and unforgiving narrative that works a dark magic.

An aging ex-con sets out to pull one more big heist.
Release Date: January 21, 1941
Release Time: 100 minutes

Ida Lupino as Marie Garson
Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle
Alan Curtis as Babe Kozak
Arthur Kennedy as Red Hattery
Joan Leslie as Velma
Henry Hull as Doc Banton
Henry Travers as Pa Goodhue
Jerome Cowan as Healy
Minna Gombell as Mrs. Baughman
Barton MacLane as Jake Kranmer
Elisabeth Risdon as Ma Goodhue
Cornel Wilde as Louis Mendoza
Donald MacBride as Big Mac
Paul Harvey as Mr. Baughman
Isabel Jewell as Blonde
Willie Best as Algernon
Spencer Charters as Ed
George Meeker as Pfiffer
Robert Strange as Art
John Elredge as Lon Preiser
Sam Hayes as Announcer
Zero as Pard
Eddie Acuff as Bus Driver



Author Bio:
William Riley Burnett (1899-1981) was a master of fiction, a skillful writer, contemporary to James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett. Burnett authored some 36 novels and either wrote alone or in collaboration 60 screenplays. His novels Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle represent a rich vein of thought in contemporary American literature and culture.

After he began his career as a writer, Burnett moved to Chicago in the late 1920s at the height of Al Capone's power and sway over the city. It was this atmosphere, Chicago in the '20s and notably the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Burnett was one of the first people on the scene) that inspired Burnett’s first great success Little Caesar, which was made into a film by the same name starring Edward G. Robinson.

After this initial success, Burnett had a strong, close working relationship with Hollywood as both a novelist and screenwriter, and eventually found a champion in writer/director John Huston. Burnett collaborated with Huston on the adaptation of High Sierra in 1941 in which Humphrey Bogart redefined himself in the role of Roy Earle. The two men's paths crossed again when Huston filmed The Asphalt Jungle in 1950. The Mystery Writers of America awarded Burnett their highest honor--the prestigious title of Grand Master--at the 1980 Edgar Awards.




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