Humphrey Bogart's breakthrough came in 1941 with lead roles in "High Sierra" and "The Maltese Falcon". Until then, Warner Brothers' top male stars were James Cagney, Paul Muni, George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. With the lead in "High Sierra", Humphrey Bogart turned from supporting actor into Warners' new leading man. Bogie wasn't first choice for the role of Roy 'Mad Dog' Earle, though. He was cast after director Raoul Walsh failed to get George Raft or Paul Muni (rumour has it that Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney also declined).
Hal B. Wallis was producer for Warner Bros. and responsible for such classics as "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) and "Casablanca" (1942). On 4 May 1940, Humphrey Bogart sent a telegram to Wallis, showing his interest in the lead role in "High Sierra". George Raft had already turned down the role and since there was doubt about Paul Muni doing it, Bogie was eager to grab his chance.
NORTHHOLLYWOOD CALIF MAY 4 1940
WARNER BROS STUDIO=
DEAR HAL YOU TOLD ME ONCE TO LET YOU KNOW WHEN I FOUND A PART I WANTED. A FEW WEEKS AGO I LEFT A NOTE FOR YOU CONCERNING HIGH SIERRA I NEVER RECEIVED AN ANSWER SO IM BRINGING IT UP AGAIN AS I UNDERSTAND THERE IS SOME DOUBT ABOUT MUNI DOING IT REGARDS=