Thursday, June 14, 2012
The Maltese Falcon
#23 (1998) and #31 (2007) on the AFI 100 Best Movies Lists
The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 Warner Bros. film based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and a remake of the 1931 film of the same name. Written for the screen and directed by John Huston, the film stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam Spade; Mary Astor as his femme fatale client; Gladys George; Peter Lorre; and Sydney Greenstreet in his film debut. The film was Huston's directorial debut and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
The story concerns a San Francisco private detective's dealings with three unscrupulous adventurers who compete to obtain a fabulous jewel-encrusted statuette of a falcon.
The Maltese Falcon has been named as one of the greatest films of all time by Roger Ebert, and Entertainment Weekly, and was cited by Panorama du Film Noir Américain, the first major work on film noir, as the first film of that genre.
The film premiered on October 3, 1941, in New York City and was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1989
* Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade
* Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy
* Gladys George as Iva Archer
* Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo
* Barton MacLane as Lt. of Detectives Dundy
* Lee Patrick as Effie Perrine
* Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman
* Ward Bond as Detective Tom Polhaus
* Jerome Cowan as Miles Archer
* Elisha Cook, Jr. as Wilmer Cook
* James Burke as Luke
* Murray Alper as Frank Richman
* John Hamilton as Bryan
* Walter Huston as Captain Jacobi
The antihero protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, private investigator Sam Spade, is based on the author's experiences as a private detective for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in San Francisco. Hammett not only invested Spade with characteristics drawn from his own personality but also gave him his own first name, Samuel, which Hammett had discarded when he launched his career as a writer.
Hammett also drew upon his years as a detective in creating many of the other characters for The Maltese Falcon, which reworks elements from two of his stories published in Black Mask magazine in 1925, "The Whosis Kid" and "The Gutting of Couffignal". The novel itself was serialized in five parts in Black Mask in 1929-30 before being published in book form in 1930 by Alfred A. Knopf.
The 1941 film is the third film version of the novel. The first, released in 1931, starred Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, while the second, called Satan Met a Lady, was a loose adaptation that turned the story into a light comedy, with the characters renamed. It was released in 1936 and starred Warren William and a young Bette Davis, only five years into her long film career.
Warner Brothers had been prevented by the Hays Office censors from re-releasing the 1931 version due to its "lewd" content, which is possibly what caused them to go into production in 1941 with a new, cleaned-up version. (It was not until after 1966 that unedited copies of the 1931 film could be shown in the U.S.) The 1941 film still featured some adultery and managed to sneak some homosexual innuendo past the censors: when the police try to implicate Spade in his partner's murder, he asks Detective Polhaus, "What's your boyfriend gettin' at Tom?".