Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

Practice: Treasure of the Sierra Madre

In a Tampico flophouse before a gold expedition began, grizzled prospector Howard (Walter Huston) delivered a wise description of “gold fever,” gold’s worth, and the seductive, “devilish” lure of gold. He recalled his past gold quests all over the world, ending his tales of experience (when he witnessed “what gold does to men’s souls”) by describing how the noble, friendly, and solid intentions of gold-seekers always vanished after gold was discovered:

Gold in Mexico? Why sure there is. Not ten days from here by rail and pack train, there’s a mountain waitin’ for the right guy to come along, discover her treasure, and then tickle her until she lets him have it. The question is, are you the right guy? Aw, real bonanzas are few and far between that take a lot of finding. Say, answer me this one, will ya? Why’s gold worth some twenty bucks an ounce?…

A thousand men, say, go searchin’ for gold. After six months, one of ’em’s lucky. One out of the thousand. His find represents not only his own labor but that of 999 others to boot. That’s uh, 6,000 months, uh, 500 years scrambling over mountains, goin’ hungry and thirsty. An ounce of gold, mister, is worth what it is because of the human labor that went into the findin’ and the gettin’ of it….Well, there’s no other explanation, mister. Gold itself ain’t good for nothin’ except for makin’ jewelry with, and gold teeth. 

Aw, gold’s a devilish sort of a thing anyway. You start out to tell yourself you’ll be satisfied with 25,000 handsome smackers worth of it, so help me Lord and cross my heart. Fine resolution. After months of sweatin’ yourself dizzy and growin’ short on provisions and findin’ nothin’, you finally come down to 15,000 and then 10. Finally you say, ‘Lord, let me just find $5,000 dollars worth and I’ll never ask for anything more the rest of my life.’…Yeah, here in this joint, it seems like a lot. But I tell you, if you was to make a real strike, you couldn’t be dragged away. Not even the threat of miserable death wouldn’t keep you from tryin’ to add $10,000 more. $10,000, you’d want to get 25. $25,000, you’d want to get 50. $50,000, a 100. Like roulette. One more turn, you know, always one more…

I’ve dug in Alaska and Canada and Colorado. I was with the crowd in the British Honduras where I made my fare back home and almost enough over to cure me of the fever I’d caught. Dug in California and Australia. All over the world practically. Yeah, I know what gold does to men’s souls…

That’s gold, that’s what it makes us. Never knew a prospector yet that died rich. Make one fortune, he’s sure to blow it in tryin’ to find another. I’m no exception to the rule. Aw sure, I’m a gnawed old bone now, but say, don’t you guys think the spirit’s gone. I’m all set to shoulder a pickax and a shovel anytime anybody’s willin’ to share expenses. I’d rather go by myself. Going it alone’s the best way. But you got to have a stomach for loneliness. Some guys go nutty with it. On the other hand, goin’ with a partner or two is dangerous. Murderers always lurkin’ about. Partners accusin’ each other of all sorts of crimes. Aw, as long as there’s no find, the noble brotherhood will last. But when the piles of gold begin to grow, that’s when the trouble starts.

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