Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

High Sierra (1941)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

High Sierra (1941)

In Raoul Walsh's crime/gangster film noir about a newly-released aging gangster involved in one final heist:

  • the opening title credits scrolling upward from the bottom of the screen, against backdrops of the towering Sierra Mountains
  • the signing of an executive order "PARDON" by the Governor in 1932, to release aging, ex-con gangster Roy "Mad Dog" Earle (Humphrey Bogart) from Mossmoor Prison after serving time for eight years as a bank robber; outside the prison gates, Earle was met by another gangster Big Mac (Donald MacBride) to plan another heist, but Earle's first wish was to walk to the nearby park: "Just as soon as I make sure that grass is still green and trees are still growing"
The Pardon and Release of Roy Earle
  • the touching sequence of Roy's development of a relationship with club-footed, disabled, and limping young Velma Goodhue (Joan Leslie), when they marveled together at the stars and planets in the sky: "Look at the stars....It's always like this out in the desert. You see that bright, blue star up there? Look at it sparkle. And look. You see that other one?...Now, that's Jupiter...You see different stars at different times. They change with the seasons. Now, look. You see that one twinkling over there? Well, that's Venus....You know, sometimes, when you're out in the night and you look up at the stars, you can almost feel the motion of the Earth. It's like a little ball that's turning through the night, with us hanging on to it"; Velma responded: "Why, that sounds like poetry, Roy. It's pretty"
  • the heartbreaking scene of Earle's visit to see the post-surgical Velma (after he had paid for her corrective surgery) who revealed that she had a 30 year-old boyfriend-fiancee named Lon Preiser, a divorcee who offered to pay Roy back: ("I ought to pay you back. After all, it's a lot of money"), but Roy flatly refused: "Forget it. Think nothin' of it"; Velma encouraged him: "But I'd like you to take it, Roy. After all, Lon and I are going to be married very soon, and he can afford it easily" - Roy was crushed and also angry at Lon: ("Yeah, that's swell...I don't like you. I don't like the way you talk, and I don't like your friend. I don't like to think of her being married to ya"); Velma meanly solidified her breakup with Roy: "You've got no right to say such things. Lon's gonna be my husband, and I love him. And you're just jealous and mean because I don't want you. I never wanted you"
  • the film's suspenseful manhunt high up in the Sierra Mountains as police pursued Earle in a doomed last stand after a failed jewel robbery at the Tropico Hotel, a resort in California
  • Roy's moll Marie Garson (Ida Lupino), who refused the authorities' demand to call out to Earle to lure and bring him out into the open during the pursuit: ("No, I won't....I won't, I tell you...He's gonna die anyway, he'd rather it was this way. Go on, kill him! All of you. Kill him, kill him, do you hear?")
  • the sequence of a sniper shooting Earle, when the fugitive heard barking from his mongrel dog Pard who was running up the steep cliff to him; he stood up and called out "Marie!" - and was shot by a sniper's bullet from behind; Marie screamed from down below; after Earle's body rolled down the steep rocky cliff, his dog Pard licked his hand
  • Marie's questioning: "Mister, what does it mean when a man crashes out?"; she was told: "Crashes out? That's a funny question for you to ask now, sister. It means he's free"; she sadly repeated the word "Free" - questioning Roy's unnecessary death but finding some comfort in it
  • the final, blurry fadeout on Marie's tear-stained face as it filled the frame before a pan up to the mountains

Earle Pardoned

Earle Falling in Love with Velma

Meeting Velma's Boyfriend-Fiancee Lon After the Surgery

Roy with Pard and Marie

Earle Shot by a Sniper in the High Sierra

Marie Lamenting Earle's Death


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