Watching The Petrified Forest you can see Bogey developing his craft. Riffing off of John Dillinger, he holds his arms at a curious angle, like he is about to reach for a gun. (For decades, Bogey impersonators would ape that posture.) Bogart studied films of Dillinger and tries here to recreate the famous bank robber’s battered facial expression and insolent demeanor.
Before High Sierra, Hollywood’s gangsters were not just black-and-white on celluloid; they were equally definitive in their morality—or, rather, immorality. There was nothing sympathetic about Paul Muni as Tony Camonte in Scarface and no doubt where James Cagney’s Tom Powers stood in The Public Enemy. This movie, a star vehicle for Humphrey Bogart, helped change all that.