HIGH SIERRA (Raoul Walsh, 1941)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Saturday, April 12, 5:00
Series continues through April 17
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
Warner Bros. and First National brought out the big guns for their 1941 gangster picture High Sierra, with Raoul Walsh directing a script by W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar) and John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. Bogart (the part had been previously been offered to George Raft and Paul Muni) plays hardcore criminal Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, called in the trailer “the strangest of men in the strangest of stories,” recently released from prison and already caught up in a casino heist. He is joined by Louis (Cornel Wilde), Red (Arthur Kennedy) and Babe (Alan Curtis), with Babe having brought along femme fatale Marie (Lupino), who Roy knows is going to be trouble — with a capital T. Meanwhile, Roy has fallen for Velma (Joan Leslie), a pure and innocent young woman with a medical problem Roy is generously trying to help cure. He’s also taken a liking to a mutt, revealing that he might actually have a softer side in there somewhere. But when things don’t quite go as planned, Roy finds himself on the run, heading toward the Sierra Nevadas, willing to do whatever it takes to get away from the police, who are hot on his trail. Bogart gives one of his finest performances as the Dillinger-esque Earle, continually offering just the slightest twist on his character, adding depth not always found in murderous gangsters. Tony Gaudio’s cinematography is a highlight as well, especially in the scenes on Mt. Whitney. High Sierra is screening April 12 at 5:00 as part of the MoMA series “The Aesthetics of Shadow, Part 2: Europe and America,” which is based on Daisuke Miyao’s The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lighting and Japanese Cinema; the festival continues through April 17 with such other films that make creative use of lighting as Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, and Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past.