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Walter Huston's performance is his best job in a lifetime of good acting. Humphrey Bogart cannot completely eliminate the existence of Humphrey Bogartbut he makes a noble effort to lose himself and does far & away the best work of his career. Tim Holt is less an actor than a presence, but it is a powerful and right presence. Bruce Bennett is a fine Texan. Alfonso Bedoya, as the bandit leader, gives the toothy smile a new lease on life as a sinister property (he is known in Mexico as "The Face That Kills").
The Heroes. It has never been easy, in Hollywood, to make a first rate, out-of-the-routine movie. Treasure would never have been made, or would have been hopelessly compromised and watered-down, but for several stalwart heroes. Director John Huston, the chief hero, sold the idea of doing the picture to Producer Henry Blanke. Blanke persuaded the leary moguls to buy the screen rights (Traven got a niggardly $5,000). At one point, Bogart saved the picture by refusing, against front-office pressure, to play his role except as Huston had written it.
With Treasure, John Huston, 41, establishes himself in the top rank of contemporary moviemakers. John is a leathery, ski-nosed man with hard, arresting eyes, who suggests a hammered-out version of his father, Walter. He is as tough in mind and performance as in looks.
John was born in 1906 in Nevada, Mo., a town which (he claims) his grandfather, a professional gambler, won in a poker game. When John was about seven, his parents were divorced. Living with his father, John picked up a profound knowledge of the theater. With his mother he traveled extensively ("Mother hated France, but she was nuts about Turkey"). At twelve he went to military school in California; as a boxer he became amateur lightweight champion of the state.
At 20 he joined the Mexican cavalry. He began to write stories. His father gave one to Ring Lardner, who gave it to H. L. Mencken, who printed it in the old American Mercury. John also wrote "a kind of a book" (it was a play) called Frankie & Johnny, illustrated by Covarrubias. To his surprise, Boni & Liveright gave him a $500 advance for it. John immediately entrained for Saratoga, where he picked up $11,000 in a dice game.
The "kind of a book" also got him a kind of a job in movies. He worked briefly for Sam Goldwyn and for Universal. He went on the bum for a while in London (he and Director William Wyler still ride the freights now & then). Later he wrote Hollywood scripts until he made a name for himself with his first job of directing (The Maltese Falcon, 1941). As an Army officer he made the sullenly beautiful documentary Report from the Aleutians and the magnificent San Pietro.
Technical Adviser. During the scripting of Treasure, Huston was in constant correspondence with its author, the mysterious B. Traven (The Death Ship, The Bridge in the Jungle). Novelist Traven has an enormous following in Europe, but nothing is known of him except that he has lived invisibly, somewhere in Mexico, for many years. Many of Traven's suggestions for movie treatment were so intelligent and knowledgeable that Huston was fascinated, and wanted to meet him.