Movies were more than half a century old when writer-director John Huston made “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” in 1947, but shooting “on location” wasn’t the norm, especially not for the major Hollywood studios. But Huston was not only a brilliant screenwriter and director (and later, actor), he was also a determined cinematic innovator, a fact perhaps lost amid the large swath he cut with his bigger-than-life antics and dazzling handling of actors and material.
In the case of “Sierra Madre,” Huston fought hard for the use of Mexican landscapes, captured so memorably by d.p. Ted McCord. His win has been described as “a radical move” by film historians.
The result didn’t excite studio boss Jack Warner until the film started scoring with critics. It went on to win Oscars for Huston’s writing and directing and also garnered his father, Walter, a supporting actor Oscar.
Over the decades, Huston lost none of his zeal for taking on creative challenges that included the unusual color palette of “Moulin Rouge” the muted amber cinematography of “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” the quirky storytelling and makeup of “List of Adrian Messenger,” the indie edge of “The Misfits” and according to some cultural historians, the creation of “camp” humor with the help of Truman Capote for the antic shaggy dog tale “Beat the Devil.”