Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948): John Huston’s Oscar Winning Crime/Urban Western, Starring Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt

Equally a serious art film par excellence, and a commercial feature, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is uncharacteristically the product of a studio, Warner.

The Oscar nominated film is easily one of many highlights of director John Huston’s varied career, in which Humphrey Bogart renders his most fully-realized performance, though he is better known for such films as Casablanca, The African Queen, and The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.

Effectively criss-crossing genres, the stylized black-and-white film is compelling as an urban Western, a crime melodrama, an action adventure, a film noir—and above all a sharp character study of greed and avarice, and their lethally devastating effects.

Huston shines not only as a director (making his best film to date), but also as a writer, adapting to the screen B. Traven’s 1927 novel of the same title.

One of the first Hollywood films to be shot on location, in Durango and Tamico, Mexico, the tale centers on two Americans, Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), who join forces with a reluctant old-timer Howard (Walter Huston, the director’s father) in their obsessive and desperate search for fold.

Oscar Nomination: 4

Picture, produced by Henry Blanke
Director: John Huston
Screenplay: John Huston, based on the novel by B. Traven
Supporting Actor: Walter Huston

Oscar Awards: 3

Supporting Actor

Oscar Context

In 1948, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre competed for the top Oscar with Laurence Olivier’s “Hamlet,” which won Best Picture, Actor, and other awards; the ballet-drama “The Red Shoes,” which broke box-office records in the U.S.; the melodrama “The Snake Pit,” with Olivia de Havilland; and Jean Negulesco’s “Johnny Belinda.”

The Oscar show was a big night for the Huston family: father Walter Huston won the Supporting Actor Oscar in a film written and directed by his son, John Huston.

The most nominated picture, and thus the biggest loser, was “Johnny Belinda,” receiving 12 nominations, but winning only one Oscar, Best Actress for Jane Wyman as the deaf-mute girl Belinda McDonald.

The major awards were spread rather evenly among the five nominees.

The Red Shoes deservedly won the technical awards in color, a distinction that increased the number of winning films.