"Hey, mister, can you stake a fellow American to a meal?"
Treasure of the Sierra Madre was a 1948 vehicle for Humphrey Bogart, but it was Walter Huston as the crusty old timer laughing at the folly of his young wards, who steals the show. His performance won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Picture yourself as an American in the 1920s who, for whatever reason, has journeyed to Tampico, Mexico. Life there wasn't what you thought it would be. Work is scarce, and you can't even make a few pesos shining shoes. That kind of work is for the natives, and you don't want to cross them. So, Bogart walks the streets, hitting up other Americans for change so he can buy himself a cheap meal.
Bogart's character, Fred C. Dobbs, seems to catch a break when a fast talking American building contractor offers him a job. Long hours and hard work are fine because the promised paycheck is going to go a long way in Tampico. However, Dobbs finds himself duped, along with the rest of the laborers. The contractor leaves them at the docks and vanishes after telling them he needs to meet the paymaster and get them what they are owed.
The betrayal sets up Dobbs' friendship with Curtain, another down and out American scammed by the contractor. Dobbs is convinced, by a young Robert Blake playing a Mexican kid, to spend his last bit of money on a percentage of a lottery ticket. Back to asking fellow Americans to spot him money for a meal, Dobbs and Curtain sight the contractor and corner him in a bar. A long, drawn out fistfight ensues, and they take from his wallet what they are owed from the job. This grants them an opportunity to stay in a local flop house, where they overhear Howard, the old timer played by Walter Huston, telling the boys about how you prospect for gold. They want in. Gold, now that is certainly better than hanging around Tampico waiting for another job.
They have almost enough money between the three of them for the equipment needed to begin a mission into the mountains. Then Dobbs' lottery ticket pays off and the extra money is there. Unfortunately, this is the beginning of their troubles since it means Dobbs has now contributed the lions' share of the investment money.
The rest of the movie makes an ample demonstration of why they teach you to share in kindergarten. Dobbs becomes paranoid once the gold starts rolling in. He doesn't trust either of his partners. They split the gold three ways and hide it. Dobbs gets up six times a night to check on his "goods" and wakes up every time someone else gets up to take a leak, concerned that they are out trying to steal his goods. A friendly Texan happens by and wants to get in on the deal. Dobbs wants him shot, and gets his way, but not by the expected means. They have to defend themselves against bandits. They reach the targeted haul they all agreed on before the trip, but Dobbs insists they keep going.
"Tiger got 'em. Yeah, thats it. Tiger got 'em."
What happens in the end? Watch the movie and pay close attention to the intimate details of this allegory. Perhaps gold has a way of showing the true color of a man's soul. Perhaps not. Watch the film. It goes good with tequila.
Also worthy of note: The movie was adapted from the 1927 novel of the same name by B. Traven (thanks Professor Pi), and that the movie initially failed at the box office because audiences didn't like the idea of Humphrey Bogart playing such an unlikable character.