The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was a passion project for director John Huston. Originally, it would have been his next film after The Maltese Falcon, but the director was called away to make war documentaries instead.
While Warner Brothers had purchased the rights to the novel, they began to have second thoughts in Huston’s absence. They doubted its commercial appeal because it now seemed “too downbeat.”
Thankfully, since Humphrey Bogart’s contract gave him creative control, he ensured that the film would still get made. When Huston returned, they proved that this “downbeat” story could not only be a box office draw but a critical success too.
1. THE FILM HAS SOME SPECIAL CAMEOS.
Director John Huston made a cameo, at the request of the novel’s author, B. Traven (read more about him here). Ann Sheridan, who previously appeared alongside Bogie in They Drive By Night, made a brief appearance as a lady of the night as a way of saying good luck to the cast. Robert Blake, known for In Cold Blood, played the role of the young boy selling the lottery ticket. The final cameo is Tim Holt’s father, Jack, who was also an actor.
2. BOGART HAD A YACHT ON HIS MIND.
When the production fell behind, Bogie worried that he would miss the deadline to enter his yacht, Santana, into a race in Hawaii. He got so worried that he complained to Warner Brothers, and they telegrammed Huston to “get this impatient mariner aboard his flying Dutchman.” However, the director did something different. When Bogie mentioned it at dinner one night, Huston grabbed the star by his nose and didn’t let go until Lauren Bacall begged. Bogart didn’t complain again, even though he missed the race.
3. THEY WERE ONE OF THE FIRST TO FILM ON LOCATION.
Location shooting was very rare because most studios had their own sets already built and ready to use. However, Huston felt that the story had to be filmed in Mexico or it would appear fake. Warner Brothers allowed some scenes to be shot out of the country, though others were shot on a sound stage in Burbank. After the long days shooting outside in Mexico, Huston and company enjoyed the spa, bowling, and playing practical jokes on each other.
4. HUSTON’S DAD ALMOST PLAYED BOGIE’S PART.
In fact, the author B. Traven even endorsed the idea. However, Huston decided to cast him as the knowledgeable prospector instead. John’s only request was for his dad to play the part without his false teeth – just his gums. Walter Huston won an Oscar for his performance and said that night, “Many years ago – many, many, years ago – I raised a son and I said, ‘If you ever become a director or a writer, please find a good part for your old man.’ He did all right.”