Last week I rented The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a classic western starring Humphrey Bogart (as Dobbs, the crazy one) and Walter Huston (as Howard, the grizzled old miner) and directed by Walter’s son, John. I figured it was about time I saw the movie that originated the line “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges.” I thought the movie was good, if very intense. And the final scene had a lesson that I hope I can incorporate into my life more than I do now.
WARNING – The next part reveals the end of the movie.
The story so far: Three prospectors find a treasure in gold dust. But as they’re riding back to cash in on their riches, one goes crazy and takes it all for himself. His partners try to track him down to get their shares back. But before they can catch him, he’s killed by bandits. The bandits don’t recognize the value of the gold dust and drop it on the ground where the winds blow it away.
In the movie’s final scene, the two remaining partners find the empty bags of gold dust where the robbers dropped them, torn and scattered. That’s when Walter Huston’s character starts laughing wildly at the joke life has played on them. He laughs and laughs, saying that their fortune has blown back to the mountains where it came from.
For me that was the most important thing in the movie – laughing at life’s misfortunes. I like that spirit. I hope I can remember it when this old world gets me down. Lord knows there’s plenty to get depressed about, from the latest shenanigans of our president to the growing menace of global warming to the ongoing horrors in the middle east. Being able to step back and laugh at the absurdity of it all seems like a wonderful and sane option.