Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

In Best Director-winning John Huston's tale of avarice among gold prospectors in 1920s Mexico (based upon B. Traven's novel):

  • in Tampico, drifter Fred C. Dobbs' (Humphrey Bogart) thrice-asked request to a white-suited American (an early cameo by director John Huston): "Hey mister, could you stake a fellow American to a meal?"
  • scruffy, experienced, eccentric, toothless old gold prospector Howard's (Walter Huston, the director's father) recounting of tales of gold-seeking to greedy gold seeker Dobbs at a flophouse: "Yeah, I know what gold does to men's souls...That's gold, that's what it makes us. Never knew a prospector yet that died rich. Make one fortune, he's sure to blow it in tryin' to find another. I'm no exception to the rule. Aw sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone. I'm all set to shoulder a pickax and a shovel anytime anybody's willin' to share expenses. I'd rather go by myself. Going it alone's the best way. But you got to have a stomach for loneliness. Some guys go nutty with it. On the other hand, goin' with a partner or two is dangerous. Murderers always lurkin' about. Partners accusin' each other of all sorts of crimes. Aw, as long as there's no find, the noble brotherhood will last. But when the piles of gold begin to grow, that's when the trouble starts"
  • the scene of gleeful Howard's dancing of a jig upon the discovery of gold and his exclamation: "Up there!"
  • the scene of Mexican bandits confronting the gold-seekers when Dobbs asked where their Federales badges were - and Gold Hat's (Alfonso Bedoya) answer: "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"
  • the appearance of another unwanted American gold prospector from Texas, Cody (Bruce Bennett), who after one night with the group told them bluntly what their options with him were: "As I see it, you guys have got to do one of three things: kill me, run me off, or take me in with you as a partner. Let's consider the first. Another guy may come along tomorrow. Maybe a dozen other guys. If you start bumping people off, just how far are you prepared to go with it? Ask yourselves that. Also, don't forget, the one actually to do the bumping off would forever be in the power of the other two. The only safe way would be for all three of you to drag out your cannons and bang away at the same instant like a firing squad...As for choice number two, if you run me off, I might very well inform on you...Twenty-five percent of the value of your find is the reward I'd get paid and that would be tempting, mighty tempting...Let's see what number three has to offer. If you take me in with you as a partner, you don't stand to lose anything. I will not ask to share in what you've made so far, only in the profits to come. Well, what do you say?"
  • the demise of the crazed, deranged and paranoid Dobbs - his confrontation with Curtin leading to his partner's wounding, and his demented and insane babbling the next morning about whether to bury the guilty evidence or not when he found that Curtin's body was missing: "Curtin! Curtin! Curtin! Where are you? Curtin! I gotta get ahold of myself! Mustn't lose my head. There's one thing certain, he ain't here. I got it. The tiger. Yeah, yeah that's it. The tiger must have dragged him off to his lair, that's what. Yeah, pretty soon, not even the bones will be left to tell the story. (He let go a delighted, but deranged laugh) Done as if by order"
  • the sequence leading up to the death of the gaunt-faced Dobbs when surrounded by bandits as he stumbled and staggered along half-conscious in the sweltering desert, seeing ahead of him before his burro train some sanctuary ruins; when he knelt next to drink from a pool of muddy, fetid water, a reflection of another face was shown in the pool - it was the image of death itself - the smiling bandit Gold Hat with his tattered, ragged sombrero; joined by two other predatory bandits, Gold Hat asked for a cigarette and matches; Dobbs cleverly attempted to answer Gold Hat's questions, appearing unworried and unafraid, although he knew he was defenseless without his partners; as they prepared for the kill, Dobbs was surrounded and looked up and down - one of the bandits lifted Dobbs' pants leg to examine his boots; Gold Hat wasn't convinced that Dobbs' partners were near: "That's funny. A man all by himself in bandit country with a string of burros and his friends behind him on horseback"; Dobbs' revolver clicked empty three or four times; the Mexicans laughed at Dobbs for his impotence and then one of the bandits hit him in the head with a stone, and Gold Hat savagely finished him off with a few strokes of a machete blade; the impoverished bandits stripped Dobbs for his boots and clothing, animal skins, and burros
  • in the conclusion, crazy Howard's ironic, last bitter but boisterous laugh with youthful Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) as he recognized the cosmic humor and irony in how the gold dust from Dobbs' saddle bags had been blown back into the desert sand; while roaring with triumphant, mocking, restorative laughter, he exclaimed: "Oh laugh, Curtin, old boy. It's a great joke played on us by the Lord, or fate, or nature, whatever you prefer. But whoever or whatever played it certainly had a sense of humor! Ha! The gold has gone back to where we found it!... This is worth ten months of suffering and labor - this joke is!"
  • the last image in the film - the camera panned to the ground and showed a closeup of a small, forked cactus - the film's epilogue; caught on one of its forks was one of the torn, empty gold bags - recalling the tragic fate of Dobbs in his mad quest


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