Oscar Season: Walter Huston in The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)

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It’s Oscar season! Woohoo! I was going through the Garden’s previous Oscar posts, and I realized I have never talked about one my favorite categories. We’ve had Best Actress nominees of 1942/43, Best Supporting Actress nominees of 1952/53, Howard Hawks’ sole Oscar nomination and why that’s a travesty, Ray Milland’s stunning performance in The Lost Weekend, people who never won an Oscar, my top 10 favorite Oscar wins, which at this point, needs an update, and, of course, the ill-advised Oscar jokes – hey, I think I’m funny! But I have never talked about the Supporting Actor category. Some of my favorite Oscar wins are in this category and yet, I seemed to have overlooked it all these years. Well, no more! Supporting Actor is probably my favorite of the acting categories. I think it’s the one that, for me, has the most consistently interesting characters and performances. One could argue with a lot of choices in the other categories, but for some reason, Supporting Actor seems to be almost always unanimous. From George Sanders in All About Eve, to Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives, to Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, Supporting Actor has given us some of cinema’s most memorable moments ever. Enter Walter Huston.

Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) are two Americans down on their luck in Mexico. They come across an elderly man named Howard, played by Walter Huston, while staying at a flophouse, and they soon concoct a plan to dig for gold in the Sierra Madre.

Though not entirely unpredictable once we know what’s going on, John Huston’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre is still a riveting tale of greed and mistrust, led by three leads brilliantly playing off each other throughout. And while I’d love to be able to talk about Bogart’s performance in one of these Oscar posts things, you’ll be shocked to find he neither won nor was nominated for this. Walter Huston, however, was and did. A scene-stealer if there ever was one, Huston managed to capture the humanity among the greed, as well the humor in an otherwise very tense film. From his first scene in the flophouse, in which he gives an impassioned speech about prospecting and its downfalls, to the very last moments and that infectious laugh, he’s a commanding figure and he has our attention, which is impressive considering he shared the screen with Humphrey Bogart. This, of course, was the first and so far only time in which a child directed their parent to an Oscar, and when he receiving his award, Walter Huston remarked that he told his son John that if he ever became a director or a writer, to please find a good part for his old man. ‘He did all right!’, he said. John Huston also won a Best Director Oscar for The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Ain’t it sweet!

4 thoughts on “Oscar Season: Walter Huston in The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)

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