Carolyne Keeney

Written by Carolyne Keeney

Modified & Updated: 04 Mar 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


The Petrified Forest is a classic American film that has captivated audiences for decades. Released in 1936, this dramatic thriller is set in a remote desert diner called the Black Mesa Bar-B-Q, located near the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Directed by Archie Mayo, the film showcases a star-studded cast including Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Leslie Howard.

The Petrified Forest weaves a gripping story of desperation, love, and murder. It explores the lives of the characters who find themselves caught in a tense standoff when a notorious gangster and his gang take refuge in the diner. As the situation intensifies, secrets are revealed, and unexpected alliances are formed.

In this article, we will delve into 50 fascinating facts about The Petrified Forest. From behind-the-scenes trivia to the impact it had on the film industry, get ready to discover everything you need to know about this iconic movie.

Key Takeaways:

  • “The Petrified Forest” is a classic movie based on a play, featuring iconic actors and exploring deep themes like love and desperation in a tense Arizona diner setting.
  • This influential film, with its timeless relevance, captivating performances, and exploration of societal issues, continues to inspire and leave a lasting impact on cinema.
Table of Contents

Origin of the Title

The title of the movie, “The Petrified Forest,” refers to an actual location in Arizona known for its fossilized trees.

Based on a Play

“The Petrified Forest” was originally a play written by Robert E. Sherwood. It was later adapted into a film in

Iconic Cast

The movie features an iconic cast including Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Leslie Howard.

Bogart’s Breakthrough Role

“The Petrified Forest” marked a turning point in Humphrey Bogart’s career, earning him critical acclaim and recognition as a leading actor.

Davis’ Fiery Performance

Bette Davis delivers a memorable performance as the character Gabrielle Maple, showcasing her remarkable talent and intensity.

Howard’s Character Inspiration

Leslie Howard’s portrayal of the character Alan Squier was inspired by author John Steinbeck.

Filmed in Black and White

The movie was filmed entirely in black and white, adding to its atmospheric and moody tone.

Setting in an Arizona Diner

Most of the movie takes place in a diner located in the Arizona desert, where various characters converge.

Claustrophobic Atmosphere

The confined setting of the diner creates a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere, intensifying the character dynamics.

Exploration of Existential Themes

The Petrified Forest” delves into existential themes such as love, death, and the struggle for purpose in life.

Critically Acclaimed

The film received critical acclaim for its engaging storytelling, strong performances, and thought-provoking themes.

Limited Box Office Success

Despite the positive reception, the movie did not achieve significant commercial success at the box office.

Influence on Film Noir

“The Petrified Forest” is considered a precursor to the film noir genre, with its dark and brooding atmosphere.

Notable Dialogue

The movie features memorable dialogue, including the famous line by Bogart’s character: “I ain’t exactly a white-collar guy.”

Exploring Social Issues

The film tackles social issues of the time, such as the Great Depression and the disillusionment of the American Dream.

Controversial Ending

The ending of “The Petrified Forest” sparked controversy among audiences, leaving them with a sense of melancholy.

Nominated for Academy Awards

The movie received three Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Best Art Direction, and Best Writing.

Rediscovered as a Classic

In later years, “The Petrified Forest” gained a cult following and is now regarded as a classic of American cinema.

Symbolism of Petrified Wood

The use of the petrified wood as a symbol in the movie represents the preservation of the past and the transience of life.

Character Study

“The Petrified Forest” offers a deep exploration of its characters’ motivations, desires, and inner struggles.

Pre-World War II Setting

The film is set just before the outbreak of World War II, capturing the prevailing sense of uncertainty and impending chaos.

A Clash of Worldviews

The clash between the viewpoints of the characters in the movie reflects the ideological divisions of the era.

Hollywood’s Golden Age

The Petrified Forest” was released during the Golden Age of Hollywood, known for its glamorous and extravagant productions.

Historical Significance

The movie serves as a time capsule, capturing the social and cultural climate of the 1930s in America.

Engrossing Dialogue

The film is known for its captivating and well-written dialogue, showcasing the talent of its screenwriter.

Expressionist Visuals

“The Petrified Forest” employs expressionist visual techniques to heighten the psychological tension within the narrative.

Exploration of Desperation

The movie delves into the depths of desperation and the lengths people are willing to go to escape their circumstances.

Themes of Sacrifice

Sacrifice is a prominent theme in “The Petrified Forest,” with characters making selfless choices for the sake of others.

Critics’ Praise for Howard’s Performance

Leslie Howard’s performance as Alan Squier garnered widespread critical acclaim for its nuanced portrayal.

Impact on Bogart’s Career

Bogart’s portrayal of Duke Mantee in the movie solidified his reputation as a captivating and menacing screen presence.

Sound Design

The Petrified Forest” showcases intricate sound design, heightening the suspense and atmosphere of the film.

Exploration of Female Independence

The character of Gabrielle Maple represents a strong and independent woman challenging societal norms of the time.

Constrained by Production Code

The movie had to adhere to the strict guidelines of the Production Code, limiting the depiction of certain themes and content.

Emotional Depth

The Petrified Forest” explores the complexity of human emotions, portraying characters with depth and vulnerability.

Critique of American Society

The film offers a critique of American society, highlighting the flaws and inequalities prevalent at the time.

Adaptation Challenges

The filmmakers faced numerous challenges in adapting the play to the screen while maintaining its dramatic impact.

Timeless Themes

Despite being set in a specific era, the themes explored in “The Petrified Forest” remain relevant and timeless.

Visual Styling

The movie’s visual style, influenced by German expressionism, adds a layer of visual interest and enhances the storytelling.

Exploration of Identity

The characters in “The Petrified Forest” grapple with questions of identity and the search for meaning in a chaotic world.

Atmospheric Cinematography

The cinematography in the film contributes to its atmospheric nature, capturing the vastness of the Arizona desert.

Powerful Performances

The performances in “The Petrified Forest” are praised for their intensity, authenticity, and emotional impact.

Legacy of the Film

“The Petrified Forest” has left a lasting legacy on cinema, inspiring future filmmakers and influencing the development of the medium.

Exploration of the American Dream

The movie delves into the disillusionment and shattered aspirations of the American Dream during a time of economic hardship.

Intertextuality with Steinbeck

The film’s connection to John Steinbeck’s work adds depth and richness to its exploration of societal issues and human nature.

Tension-filled Narrative

The Petrified Forest” keeps audiences on edge with its gripping and suspenseful storytelling.

Innovative Lighting Techniques

The film incorporates innovative lighting techniques, such as high contrast lighting and dramatic shadows, enhancing its visual impact.

Exploration of Class Differences

The movie examines the stark disparities in wealth and privilege, highlighting the struggles faced by those on the margins of society.

Critique of Hollywood Glamour

“The Petrified Forest” offers a critical examination of the artificiality and superficiality of Hollywood glamour.

Cinematic Influences

The movie’s visual style and storytelling techniques have influenced subsequent filmmakers and contributed to the evolution of cinema.

Enduring Relevance

“The Petrified Forest” continues to be studied and appreciated for its enduring relevance and timeless exploration of the human condition.

The “50 Facts about the movie The Petrified Forest” provide a comprehensive look into this iconic film. From its origin as a play to its iconic cast and exploration of existential themes, the movie continues to captivate audiences today. With its unique setting in an Arizona diner and the exceptional performances by Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Leslie Howard, “The Petrified Forest” stands as a testament to the artistry of classic Hollywood filmmaking. Its influence on subsequent films, particularly in the film noir genre, further solidifies its place in cinematic history. Whether you’re a fan of classic movies or someone looking to explore the depths of human emotions, “The Petrified Forest” is a must-watch.


In conclusion, The Petrified Forest is a timeless classic movie that has captivated audiences for decades. With its exceptional performances, gripping storyline, and powerful dialogue, it has cemented its place in cinematic history. The film’s exploration of themes such as love, desperation, and the human condition resonates with viewers of all generations.The Petrified Forest boasts an impressive cast, including the iconic performances of Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis. Their on-screen chemistry and intense portrayal of their characters bring depth and authenticity to the film. The movie’s setting, the isolated and eerie Petrified Forest, adds an additional layer of tension and suspense.With its compelling narrative and thought-provoking themes, The Petrified Forest has become a cinematic masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences to this day. It serves as a reminder of the power of storytelling and the lasting impact that movies can have on our lives.


1. When was The Petrified Forest released?

The Petrified Forest was released on February 6, 1936.

2. Who directed The Petrified Forest?

The movie was directed by Archie Mayo.

3. Is The Petrified Forest based on a play?

Yes, the film is based on a play of the same name written by Robert E. Sherwood.

4. Where is the movie set?

The Petrified Forest is primarily set in a remote diner located near the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

5. What is the significance of the movie’s title?

The Petrified Forest refers to an actual national park known for its unique fossilized trees. The title symbolizes the characters’ feelings of being trapped and unable to escape their circumstances.

6. Are there any notable performances in the film?

Yes, the movie features exceptional performances by Humphrey Bogart as the notorious gangster Duke Mantee and Bette Davis as Gabrielle Maple, a young woman trapped in a small-town life.

7. Did The Petrified Forest receive any awards or nominations?

No, the film did not receive any major awards or nominations. However, it is highly regarded for its artistic and dramatic qualities.

8. Is The Petrified Forest available on DVD or streaming platforms?

Yes, The Petrified Forest is available on DVD and can also be streamed on various platforms such as Amazon Prime and iTunes.

9. Can you recommend any other movies similar to The Petrified Forest?

Other movies with similar themes and atmosphere include Key Largo (1948) and The Desperate Hours (1955).

10. Why is The Petrified Forest considered a classic?

The Petrified Forest is considered a classic due to its exceptional screenplay, outstanding performances, and its ability to resonate with audiences through its exploration of human nature and the consequences of living a stagnant life.

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