Dorothy Huston Hodel – Script doctor for classic 1948 film – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
August 5, 2014
Los Angeles, California
Below clips are from the “Lottery scene”in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with child actor Robert Blake trying to sell a ticket to Bogie. The dialogue in this scene was written by Dorothy Huston Hodel per the request of her former husband and the film’s director, John Huston.
Humphrey Bogart and Robert Blake in lottery ticket scene
Dorothy Huston Hodel by Man Ray 1944
Dorothy Hodel by George Hodel 1946-47
(Originally written on 1/22/07)
Q: I read that your mother, Dorothy, was a screenwriter, and wrote for the studios. Did she write any well-known scripts?
Yes, my mother wrote for both film and radio in the 30s and 40s. She was credited for most of her radio scripts, one of the most prominent being, California Caravan, historical stories, recounting early California history. During WW II, as the wife of Dr. George Hodel, L.A. County’s Health Department V.D. Control Officer, she also wrote a series of public information programs called, THE UNSEEN ENEMY, presented as radio dramas, on KFI-AM, informing the public of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.
To the best of my knowledge, her film “script doctoring” remained “uncredited.” Your question brings to mind an interesting and rather fun anecdote. As most of my readers know, my mother was film director great, John Huston’s first wife. John and Dorothy were married for nearly seven-years. (1926-1933) After their divorce they remained good friends, and John attended many of the Franklin House parties, and had known my father since their high-school days. Circa 1947-8, John was filming what would become (in my opinion) one of his greatest films, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
In the film the three lead parts were played by: Humphrey Bogart, John’s father, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt. All good friends. (Tim Holt at that time was dating Carol Forman, who would later star in the early Superman films as “Spiderwoman.” During, 1948 and 1949, Carol rented a room, from my father, and shared our residence at the Franklin House.
Knowing my mother’s talent as a writer, John, who had already adapted the book to a screenplay, pleaded with her to help him “fix his script.” He needed some minor changes. He had written some dialogue for an eight-year-old Mexican boy, “that just didn’t sound right.” John wanted Dorothy, who at that time was the mother of three sons, ages 7, 8, and 9, to make it sound natural. Her orders were to, “Make the boy sound like an 8-year-old.” She did.
It is a wonderful scene in the film where Bogie is in a bar, and is sold a lottery ticket by a very persistent Mexican street urchin. Most classic film buffs remember the scene, but few recognize the child-actor playing the boy. He is Robert Blake, who today, in adulthood, has no problem being recognized by all.
Dialogue in this Robert Blake/Humphrey Bogart scene written by Dorothy Huston Hodel
1944 KFI- NBC affiliate in Los Angeles
Dorothy Hodel worked closely with top radio personalities of her day. The KFI shows were produced by Jack Edwards, Bob Purcell, Special Events Producer, and fellow writers; David Eli Janison, Karl Schlichter. Technical advisor to the show was, Dr. George Hill Hodel, Head Venereal Disease Control Officer, for Los Angeles County.
Q: I read your FAQ summary on victim, Jean Spangler and read your connections in your book. I know that LAPD interviewed actor, Kirk Douglas about her, but do you know what film she was in? I haven’t seen it named anywhere?
Yes, it was YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN. Kirk Douglas plays a young trumpet player, with a very hot horn. (The great Harry James actually played the music.) Jean is on-screen with him for about five-seconds as a hula-dancer.
The film was released in the U.S. on February 9, 1950, just four months after Jean’s murder. Nine days after its release, the DA/LAPD began their stake-out at Dr. Hodel’s Franklin House and began their reinvestigation into the: Dahlia, Red Lipstick, Gladys Kern, and Jean Spangler homicides. In the DA File we find entries by Walter Morgan where he is checking pharmacies in and around Hollywood for a “Dr. Scott”, mentioned in a note found in Spangler’s purse. (The suspect threw her purse on the open grass in Fern Dell Park, just a half-mile from the Franklin House.)
Clips of Jean Spangler and Kirk Douglas in the 1950 film, Young Man with a Horn
B. Traven’s identity is a mystery. If during the course of your investigative work you find out who he is/was, let us know! Supposedly John Huston knew.
There have been various implications–allegedly from former confidantes of Natalie Wood–that the big-time actor/producer who assaulted Wood at the Chateau Marmont was none other than Kirk Douglas. This would have been aroung the time that he was starting his own production company. KD seemed to have both a loose morality and a habit of his character fantasies spilling over into his private life. Could he have been a frequenter of George Hodel’s special parties? He seems like someone who would have been interested in them.
Joel V: His name never came up in connection with my father, as far as I know. As mentioned in the blog, Douglas was interviewed briefly in the Jean Spangler investigation as she happened to have a bit part in the film, “Young Man with a Horn” film he made, just months before her murder because of the related note to Dr. Kirk, but just coincidence and he didn’t really know her other than the two being on the Hollywood set. But, that was the case with hundreds of extras.
Thank you, Steve. Also, do you happen to know how Edmund Teske became part of ‘Lust for Life’? I’m sure it’s not unusual for contemporary artists to appear in biopics about artists, but I wonder about how Teske in particular came to be in the film.
Joel V: No clue how that unfolded other than he was in Hollywood and a natural for the part. I’m sure it was just one of those “who you know” type things.
Thank you for your feedback, Steve. I hope you are healthy and doing well during this pandemic.