An American film director who told stories about independent and adventurous men struggling for their individuality, John Huston led such a life, himself. His hyper-masculine protagonists seemed to stem from his own youthful pursuits as a boxer, competitive horseman, Calvary officer, and major in the U.S. Army. Married five times and divorced four (fourth wife Ricki Soma died in 1969), his reportedly bitter attitude toward women informed his female characters as either weak-willed prizes or seductive threats to manhood. Nevertheless, Huston's unconventional and rambling lifestyle led to some of the most celebrated American cinema, as well as the hub of three generations of Oscar winners.
Born in Missouri to noted actor Walter Huston, his family traveled extensively on the vaudeville circuit. After riding horses in Mexico and magazine reporting in New York, the younger Huston secured a job writing dialogue in Hollywood. He started acting and published his first play, Frankie and Johnny, before wandering around London and Paris working as a street performer and artist. Upon his return, he worked as an editor and writer before convincing his employers at Warner Bros. to let him direct his first movie, The Maltese Falcon, in 1941. The popular source novel by mystery author Dashiell Hammett had been filmed twice before, but only Huston's adaptation would be remembered as a prime example of the classic film noir-detective story. It also made a star out of leading man Humphrey Bogart, whom Huston would cast in his next few films: Across the Pacific, Key Largo, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. An adventure drama shot in Mexico examining the nature of man's greed, Sierra Madre won him his first Oscar for Best Director and earned his father, Walter Huston, his first for Best Supporting Actor.