Humphrey Bogart as “Duke” Mantee, violent desperado and “the last great apostle of rugged individualism”
Black Mesa, Arizona, January 1936
Film: The Petrified Forest
Release Date: February 6, 1936
Director: Archie Mayo
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly (uncredited)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This is Duke Mantee, the world-famous killer, and he’s hungry…
Indeed, Humphrey Bogart was hungry. The 36-year-old actor had spent more than a dozen years honing his craft on the stage and had spent the last five going nowhere as a $750-a-week bit player for the Fox Film Corporation.
It wasn’t until a decade after his debut that Hollywood would start opening the front door for the New York-born actor, starring in Raoul Walsh’s crime flick High Sierra as a tough bank robber clearly modeled after real-life outlaw John Dillinger. It’s only fitting that this character be Bogie’s shot at the big time that he should have earned years earlier as yet another Dillinger surrogate, Duke Mantee.
Despite their looks and public personas, Bogart and Dillinger were polar opposites, beginning as far back as their childhoods with Bogie born on Christmas 1899 as the first of three children to a stylish New York family while Dillinger would be the younger of two children born to a lower-class Indianapolis family on June 22, 1903. Both would serve in the U.S. Navy during their youth, Bogie reportedly a model sailor who enlisted shortly before World War I ended while Dillinger was dishonorably discharged after deserting his post on the USS Utah. Within a year, Dillinger was in prison for assaulting a local grocery during a robbery, and his nearly ten-year stint would harden him into the notorious criminal who would dominate headlines with his violent bank robberies and daring escapes, including the “wooden gun” jailbreak from the Crown Point, Indiana lockup on March 3, 1934, 87 years ago today.
Dillinger was shot and killed by federal agents in front of Chicago’s Biograph Theatre during the summer of 1934, having just watched Clark Gable, William Powell, and Bogie’s one-time co-star Myrna Loy in Manhattan Melodrama. At the time, Bogart was still just a bit-part actor struggling to be seen in the background of pre-Code movies like Three on a Match, Body and Soul, and Bette Davis debut Bad Sister. The occasional leading role came his way, though never enough material for Bogie to truly showcase his talents. Dismayed by Hollywood, he turned back to Broadway, where the late Dillinger inadvertently carved the path for Humphrey Bogart’s eventual superstardom.
Robert E. Sherwood made no secret of the fact that John Dillinger served as his model for the character of Duke Mantee, the snarling agent of chaos driving the plot of his latest play, set in a remote diner in the Arizona desert. When The Petrified Forest opened on Broadway in 1935, a year after Dillinger’s death, it was small-time screen actor Humphrey Bogart who received prime notices as the surprisingly complex Mantee. Bogie, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth after learning his resemblance to Dillinger helped win him the role, began researching the recently killed gangster’s mannerisms and incorporating them into the part.
As tends to be the case with successful plays, The Petrified Forest was soon headed to the silver screen with Warner Brothers hoping to cast Little Caesar himself, Edward G. Robinson, in the Mantee role. However, Leslie Howard refused to reprise his own role from the play without Bogart as Mantee. As Howard was one of the most bankable stars of the decade, Warners caved, Bogie delivered, and… a star was born.
Bogart remained grateful to Leslie Howard for the rest of his life. When his and Lauren Bacall’s daughter was born in 1952, they named the child Leslie Howard Bogart in the actor’s honor. (Unfortunately, Howard would not live to see this tribute as he was killed when his BOAC flight was shot down by German fighters in June 1943.)
Humphrey Bogart equals his superb interpretation in the theatre of the gangster character.
— The New York American
Despite Bogart’s well-received performance (arguably driven by his own passionate desperation), it was Leslie Howard and Bette Davis who headlined The Petrified Forest‘s cinematic release in February 1936, playing the would-be lovers whose paths intersect at her family’s barbecue joint in that section of northeastern Arizona desert known as the Petrified Forest. The star-crossed couple’s fate are inextricably tied to Duke Mantee as he motors toward them, speeding westward on Route 66 in a hijacked Cadillac after making his escape from “that gangster massa-cree in Oklahoma City yesterday,” as decried by the linemen idling at the cafe. Given the “ripped from the headlines” nature of Sherwood’s narrative, this undoubtedly references the Kansas City Massacre of June 1933 that left several lawmen and one fugitive dead.
Such barbarity sours the public against Mantee, aside from the old-timer “Gramp” (Charley Grapewin) who cheers on the dangerous desperado and excitedly shows his mugshot in the newspaper to his own son, Jason (Porter Hall), as he loads his revolver for that evening’s meeting of the Black Horse Vigilantes. “He’s ain’t no gangster,” defends Gramp. “He’s a real, old-time desper-ay-do… gangsters is foreigners and he’s an American!” Gramps may be changing his patriotic tune once the all-American Mantee arrives with his gun-toting gang and holds the place hostage.
The Petrified Forest provided Humphrey Bogart with his first breakout role and the one that should have shot him to stardom, had he not been pressed down by Jack Warner’s tyrannical boot into playing smarmy bastards for another half-decade until breaking free with the iconic trio of High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca that catapulted him not only onto the map but far beyond it, eventually to be chosen by the American Film Institute as the greatest male star of classic American cinema
What’d He Wear?
“Like most of the talent, he had to provide his own wardrobe, and not surprisingly he settled on the outfit he had assembled for Broadway—the shirt, vest, and well-cut trousers that had characterized the gangster John Dillinger,” wrote A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax in their definitive biography Bogart.
Duke Mantee’s waistcoat and trousers are shown to be part of a full three-piece suit, made from a dark pinstripe worsted wool cloth that has been colorized to a dark navy blue, though I don’t believe any record exists describing the actual color.
The soon-to-be-discarded single-breasted suit jacket has broad notch lapels and a two-button front. The ventless jacket has padded shoulders that build up the chest, shaped with front darts for a more suppressed waist that clings to Bogart’s leaner frame.
Rather than a traditional poplin or twill dress shirt, Duke wears a rugged flannel work shirt with a long point collar, open at the neck to let the collar points fall on top of the waistocat. Fastened up a wide front placket, the shirt also has two chest pockets—each covered by a single-button square flap—and mitred barrel cuffs with a two-button closure. As with the suit, the shirt’s color is likely lost to history though likely possibilities would be across the blue, gray, or tan spectrum.
The smirking outlaw in an open-neck shirt and dark waistcoat became a crucial part of John Dillinger’s laidback image when he was photographed resting his elbow on the shoulder of the district attorney who pledged to have Dillinger executed.
Once Duke Mantee disposes of his suit jacket, he spends the majority of his screen (and stage) time prowling the corners of the Petrified Forest BBQ in his shirt sleeves and snug waistcoat, worn with just the bottom three of six buttons closed so that he could carry his revolver inside it, likely with the end of the barrel tucked into his trousers for additional support. The waistcoat is fastened tighter via the adjustable strap across the bottom of the back, and the front is additionally detailed with four jetted pockets.
The suit’s flat front trousers rise appropriately high enough to Bogart’s natural waist, where he appears to hold them up with a narrow dark leather belt. The unsightly bulge of the buckle prevents many a sartorial purist from endorsing belts with waistcoats, though we should remember that Duke Mantee is a fugitive rather than a fashion plate; not only would a belt keep his trousers fitting should he be unable to find sustenance from a remote dessert diner, but they also provide better grip for any various weapons carried in his waistband.
The trousers have side pockets, jetted back pockets, and cuffed bottoms.
The full break of Duke Mantee’s trousers nearly envelops his shoes, a pair of dark leather wingtip brogues. The contrast against his dark suit suggests that the shoes may be a dark brown leather, though this could also be an effect that plenty of desert dust would have on black leather.
During Memorial Day weekend 1955, The Petrified Forest was revived for a live televised episode of NBC’s monthly Producers’ Showcase. By this time, Bogart was an Academy Award-winning star with an iconic filmography and a celebrated marriage to Lauren Bacall. To paraphrase one of his own characters, Bogie’s life had evolved into the stuff that dreams are made of. Personally and professionally, he was in a much better place than he had been twenty years earlier, though his health was deteriorating after a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking.
Bogart was hesitant about television, both as a medium and in the context of his own attempt at a live performance. “Suppose I had laryngitis, suppose I just wasn’t feeling up to par. I turn in a bad job and the critics rap me,” he explained in a November 1955 interview with the New York Herald-Tribune. “I just don’t like the idea of a one-shot. As for a regular weekly series, I’d sooner dig ditches.”
Still, the show went on, this time with Humphrey Bogart top-billed—rather than fifth-billed, as he had been in 1936—and starring alongside Bacall and their friend Henry Fonda, filling the late Leslie Howard’s tweeds as the traveling intellectual Alan Squier. His costume reflected much of what he had worn twenty years earlier, the a dark waistcoat and matching suit trousers worn with a lighter-weight chambray work shirt and an added shoulder holster for Duke’s death-dealing gat.
Duke Mantee carries a blued .38-caliber Colt revolver tucked inside his waistcoat, evidently with the tip of the weapon’s four-inch barrel inside his trouser waistband. Especially when Duke draws his weapon, we see plenty of evidence that it’s a Colt, particularly the lack of an ejector rod lug and the shape of the cylinder release. IMFDB identifies the revolver as the Colt Official Police, a full-size service revolver introduced in 1927 as an evolution of the earlier Colt Army Special.
Based on the smaller frame and the walnut grip pattern, I suspect Duke’s revolver is actually a Colt Police Positive. Colt introduced the Police Positive in 1907, adding a variant that handled the venerable .38 Special cartridge the following year.
Despite his screen presence, Humphrey Bogart was not a large man, recorded between 5’8″ and 5’9″ tall and never weighing more than 150 pounds. To keep his characters from being overpowered by the size of their sidearms, he often preferred to wield smaller-sized handguns on screen. The smaller frame of the Police Positive would suit this purpose while also more easily carried inside Duke’s vest. (This carry method is a curious deviation from the Broadway play, in which Bogie wore a shoulder holster.)
Joseph Breen’s martinets at the Motion Picture Association didn’t look too kindly on Paul Muni and pals mowing down their enemies with tommy guns in movies like Scarface so, as the infamous Production Code was more rigidly enforced from 1934 onward, criminals were “discouraged” from carrying modern weaponry on screen that would allow them to out-gun pursuing law enforcement. Thus, the Thompson submachine guns, semi-automatic shotguns, and Browning Automatic Rifles that the real-life Dillinger gang favored were kept in storage while Duke Mantee and his fictional contemporaries armed themselves for battle with cowboy-approved Winchester repeating rifles and double-barreled shotguns.
Upon learning the diner is surrounded by police, Duke grabs one of the former, a full-length Winchester Model 1892 lever-action rifle.
John Browning had developed the Model 1892 as a lighter version of the powerful Model 1886 rifle, chambered for handgun rounds and thus supplementing the venerable Winchester Model 1873, which had served the same purpose prior. The Model 1892 was available in a range of calibers also found in six-shooters like the Colt Single Action Army, thus allowing shooters to only need to carry one type of ammunition that would service both revolver and rifle. The Model 1892 was introduced for the .32-20, .38-40, and .44-40 Winchester centerfire rounds, with the powerful .44-40 WCF emerging as the best-selling option. Winchester would manufacture more than a million rifles during the production timeline that ended in 1945 after more than half a century, also introducing small-game and varmint rounds like the .25-20 WCF and .218 Bee.
What to Imbibe
“Join us in a glass of beer?” Duke offers, raising a glass filled with Apache Beer, the same brand advertised on signs throughout the Petrified Forest BBQ.
While Warner Brothers often chose the safe route of featuring false product labels—consider the “Kentucky Hill” bourbon that Bogie himself would swill in Casablanca and Key Largo—Apache Beer was not only a real beer but indeed a regional favorite that adds a verisimilitude to the drama set in an Arizona desert diner.
Apache Beer was introduced by the Phoenix-based Arizona Brewing Company on June 3, 1934, expanding within a year to distribute not only in Arizona but parts of New Mexico and Texas and eventually southern California. Advertisements of the era touted Apache as “the most popular beer in Arizona” but were able to back their claim by citing having the top beer sales in the state only a year after its introduction.
The brewery gained a reputation for innovation, offering not only draught beer but bottles and even a short-lived run in cans. The management team was regularly touring American beer hubs like Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis for intel on how to keep Apache Beer competitive, new brands such as Elder Brau were added to the mix, and the rising demandt meant constant expansions. As the decade came to a close, Arizona Brewing Company was looking at a bright future.
World War II meant massive changes for Arizona Brewing Company as its brewmaster (and eventual president) joined the Navy, the still-new Elder Brau was discontinued in the wake of anti-German sentiments, and bankruptcy dealt a crippling blow to the already struggling brewery. New leadership worked to get the brewery back on its feet, despite additional challenges of government quotas on grain and reduced skills in a workforce impacted by the war. By January 1943, almost all Arizona Brewing Company brands—including Apache Beer—were discontinued in favor of aligning behind the new A-1 Beer product.
Arizona Brewing Company would survive the war, rising and falling over the next two decades but perhaps never again reaching the pre-war popularity of the Apache brand. In October 1964, the brewery was sold to the Carling Brewing Company of Cleveland. (You can read more about Apache and the Arizona Brewing Company in this comprehensive article by Ed Sipos for American Breweriana Journal, excerpted by BeerHistory.com.)
As Apache Beer hasn’t existed in nearly eighty years, you can still channel Arizona’s finest by trying one of these summer brews deemed the top ten from the Sunset State by Georgann Yara for the Arizona Republic in 2019.
How to Get the Look
Just as John Dillinger took over a score of midwestern banks, Humphrey Bogart took over the screen when Duke Mantee strode into the Petrified Forest BBQ, soon peeling off his suit jacket as he commands the room in shirt-sleeves and a snug-fitting waistcoat keeping his deadly .38 in place.
- Dark pinstripe worsted wool suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels and welted breast pocket, hip pockets, and ventless back
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with four jetted pockets, notched bottom, and adjustable back strap
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Flannel work shirt with long point collar, wide front placket, two chest pockets (with single-button flaps), and two-button cuffs
- Dark leather belt
- Dark brown leather wingtip brogues
- Dark socks
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I spent most of my time since I grew up in jail… it looks like I’ll spend the rest of my life dead.