The Treasure of Sierra Madre was a passion project for director John Huston. While Warner Brothers had purchased the rights to the novel, the studio considered it “too downbeat” to adapt.
The film was initially supposed to be Huston’s next film after The Maltese Falcon but the director was called away to war, where he made documentaries. Thankfully, Humphrey Bogart’s contract gave him more creative control which ensured that the film would be made.
1. The film has three special cameos.
Director John Huston made a cameo, at the request of the novel’s author, B. Traven (read more about him here). Ann Sheridan appeared as a lady of the night on the street as way of saying good luck to the cast; Sheridan previously appeared with Bogie in They Drive By Night. Robert Blake, known for In Cold Blood, plays the role of the young boy selling the lottery ticket. The final cameo is Tim Holt’s father, Jack, who was also an actor.
2. Bogart had a yacht on his mind.
When the production fell behind, Bogie worried that he wouldn’t make it in time to enter his yacht, Santana, into a race in Hawaii. He got so worried that the studio telegrammed to tell the director to “get this impatient mariner aboard his flying Dutchman”. Huston did something different. When Bogie mentioned it at dinner one night, Huston grabbed the star by his nose and didn’t let go until Lauren Bacall told him to. Bogart missed the race, but he didn’t complain again.
3. They were one of the first to film on location.
Studios expected their directors to use the large lots they had, so location shooting was rare. However, Huston felt that the story had to be filmed in Mexico and traveled there to look for locations, where he met the author B. Traven. Not all scenes were filmed on location, though, as some were shot on a sound stage in Burbank, California. It wasn’t all work out of the country though. While not filming in Mexico, Huston and company stayed at a spa and enjoyed bowling and practical jokes.
4. Huston's dad almost played Bogie's part.
In fact, the author B. Traven even endorsed the idea. However, Huston decided to cast him as the knowledgeable prospector instead. John’s only request was for his dad to play the part without his false teeth – just his gums. Walter Huston won an Oscar for his performance and said that night, “Many years ago – many, many, years ago – I raised a son and I said, ‘If you ever become a director or a writer, please find a good part for your old man. He did all right.”