The Maltese Falcon (Warner Brothers, 1941), 100 min.
Producer: Hal B. Wallis. Director: John Huston. Screenplay: John Huston, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett. Director of Photography: Arthur Edeson. Music: Robert Haas. Editor: Thomas Richards.
Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade), Mary Astor (Bridgid O'Shaughnessy), Gladys George (Iva Archer), Peter Lorre (Joel Cairo), Sydney Greenstreet (Kasper "The Fatman" Gutman), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Wilmer Cook). With: Ward Bond, Baron MacLane, Murray Alper, Emory Parnell, John Hamilton.
Widely considered the first film noir in the classic period, this movie belongs on just about everybody's top ten list of film noir. Bogart will be forever associated with Sam Spade, and also influenced anyone who played a P.I after him. Mary Astor's role as Bridgid O'Shaughnessy also served as a model for all future noir femme fatales. The brilliant casting is filled out by Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook, Jr.--all of whom seem to be jumping off the pages of the book. A rare symbiosis between novel and film, where each seems to enhance the other.--Mike Cable
The Maltese Falcon--Buy the DVD now at Amazon.com
From Amazon.com--Still the tightest, sharpest, and most cynical of Hollywood's official deathless classics, bracingly tough even by post-Tarantino standards. Humphrey Bogart is Dashiell Hammett's definitive private eye, Sam Spade, struggling to keep his hard-boiled cool as the double-crosses pile up around his ankles. The plot, which dances all around the stolen Middle Eastern statuette of the title, is too baroque to try to follow, and it doesn't make a bit of difference. The dialogue, much of it lifted straight from Hammett, is delivered with whip-crack speed and sneering ferocity, as Bogie faces off against Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet, fends off the duplicitous advances of Mary Astor, and roughs up a cringing "gunsel" played by Elisha Cook Jr. It's an action movie of sorts, at least by implication: the characters always seem keyed up, right on the verge of erupting into violence. This is a turning-point picture in several respects: John Huston (The African Queen) made his directorial debut here in 1941, and Bogart, who had mostly played bad guys, was a last-minute substitution for George Raft, who must have been kicking himself for years afterward. This is the role that made Bogart a star and established his trend-setting (and still influential) antihero persona. --David Chute
The Maltese Falcon (New York and London: Knopf, 1930)
The novel was published by Dashiell Hammett in 1930, and is the cornerstone of any noir fiction collection. A copy of the hardcover first edition in dust jacket is the holy grail for a noir collector--pristine copies fetch more than $20,000 (See the image below of the first edition). A must read for any noir fan.--Mike Cable
From Amazon.com--Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett's archetypally tough San Francisco detective, is more noir than L.A. Confidential and more vulnerable than Raymond Chandler's Marlowe. In The Maltese Falcon, the best known of Hammett's Sam Spade novels (including The Dain Curse and The Glass Key), Spade is tough enough to bluff the toughest thugs and hold off the police, risking his reputation when a beautiful woman begs for his help, while knowing that betrayal may deal him a new hand in the next moment.
Spade's partner is murdered on a stakeout; the cops blame him for the killing; a beautiful redhead with a heartbreaking story appears and disappears; grotesque villains demand a payoff he can't provide; and everyone wants a fabulously valuable gold statuette of a falcon, created as tribute for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Who has it? And what will it take to get it back? Spade's solution is as complicated as the motives of the seekers assembled in his hotel room, but the truth can be a cold comfort indeed.
Spade is bigger (and blonder) in the book than in the movie, and his Mephistophelean countenance is by turns seductive and volcanic. Sam knows how to fight, whom to call, how to rifle drawers and secrets without leaving a trace, and just the right way to call a woman "Angel" and convince her that she is. He is the quintessence of intelligent cool, with a wise guy's perfect pitch. If you only know the movie, read the book. If you're riveted by Chinatown or wonder where Robert B. Parker's Spenser gets his comebacks, read the master. --Barbara Schlieper
Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
the Back Cover
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