For One Star, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre Was (Literally) Like Pulling Teeth

John Huston's 1948 classic "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" boasts one of the all-time great Humphrey Bogart roles. The Hollywood icon stars as Fred C. Dobbs, a drifter who struggles to make ends meet in 1920s Mexico. With the aid of a fellow American named Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) and a crusty prospector who goes by Howard (Walter Huston), Fred strikes it rich looking for gold in the Sierra Madre mountains. But as the three men fill their bags with gold dust, greed and paranoia begin to overtake Fred, making him as much a danger to his crew as the bandits circling ever closer to their camp.

Bogart is glorious as Fred. His ever-more-unsettled manner and wide-eyed expressions make his growing mistrust of his partners palpable well before his suspicions lead him to take violent, vile action. Equally splendid is John Huston's father, whose character Howard is on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. He's a grizzled veteran far more adept at this hardy line of work than Fred and Bob. His unflappable manner rarely falters, save for when he breaks out into an impromptu jig to mock the others for not recognizing the treasure literally beneath their feet.

Despite his spellbinding turn as Fred (a character he's quoted as calling "the worst s*** you ever saw"), Bogart was infamously snubbed by the Oscars for his work on "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Walter Huston, on the other hand, won an Oscar for the film after being nominated on three prior occasions (twice for Best Actor, once for Supporting Actor). Clearly, it was his lack of teeth that pushed him across the finish line.

We don't need no stinkin' teeth!

Joking aside, the tale of how Walter Huston came to play Howard without his fake teeth is a story unto itself. As Turner Classic Movies recounts in its trivia and fun facts section for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," Huston had previously worked with both his son and Humphrey Bogart on 1941's "The Maltese Falcon." Knowing his son to be a real prankster, the elder Huston assumed the director was kidding when he asked him to remove his teeth. Except, John Huston wasn't. To quote TCM:

"Walter refused, and John and Humphrey Bogart literally held him down and pulled the teeth from his mouth. Walter stood up sputtering, angry at being forced to appear so undignified but also laughing at the way he sounded. John reasoned, 'That's what I want for this role.' The teeth stayed out."

Removing one's fake teeth might seem like a small deal compared to measures some modern actors will take to look a part they're playing (like messing with their actual teeth). But in the Golden Age of Hollywood, stars had to be extra cautious of the ways their film roles could impact their image in the eyes of the public, since that's the only time most people would see them. With that in mind, Walter Huston's hesitancy to lose his teeth for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is all the easier to sympathize with.

Bogart similarly made heads turn with his scruffy and sweaty appearance as the scheming Fred C. Dobbs, a far cry from the clean-shaven, debonair leads the actor had played in other films. It may not have landed him an Oscar (that came later with another John Huston classic, "The African Queen"), but it remains some of his finest work regardless.