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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936)


This granddaddy of hostage dramas is now largely famous for restarting Humphrey Bogart ’s Hollywood career. Odd, because in recreating his big stage success, his every menacing gesture & vocal inflection now looks petrified. Ditto for Leslie Howard ’s fatalistic intellectual, though he remains nonpareil in this kind of role and had a special rapport with Bette Davis in their three pairings. She’s at her freshest as a roadstop waitress who dreams of getting away, and her soft features are lovingly captured by lenser Sol Polito. The whole cast is right on the mark (almost parodistically so) and if megger Archie Mayo gets knocks for the stagebound look of the production, most of the creakiness is built into Robert Sherwood ’s poesy platitudes. But then, so is the inherent theatricality that makes this show so damn effective/affective.

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