50 Greatest Movies – The Maltese Falcon

M, Movies, Reviews
“By gad sir, you are a character. There’s never any telling what you’ll say or do next, except that it’s bound to be something astonishing.”

Sam Spade is one cold son of a gun. And one smart son of a gun. And, as played by Humphrey Bogart, one explosively unpredictable son of a gun. “You’re absolutely the wildest most unpredictable man I know. “

Sam Spade is sitting in his office when in comes the secretary (Lee Patrick). Bogart is rolling a cigarette, his first words, “Yes Sweetheart?” This is a fantastic beginning, but it only gets better. Seems there is a woman who needs help, “You’ll want to see her, she’s a knockout.” The knockout’s name is Ruth Wonderly. She wants a man named Floyd Thursby followed. Spade’s partner agrees to follow the man and is killed. When Sam tries to call he finds Wonderly has checked out of her hotel.

Later that night, Thursby is killed. Wonderly calls Sam and tries to get him stuck in her web. She’s in a different hotel under the name LaBlanc. Finally she confesses it’s really Briged O’Shaughnessy. She thought she’d be pulling the strings but he turns it around on her.

This is very complex plot so I’ll give some cryptic sentences with name-dropping. Joel Cario (Peter Lorre) comes to Spade’s office asking about a “black figure of a bird” and intimates that Thursby had something to do with the bird. Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook, Jr.) begins to follow Spade and Cario. Kaspar Gutman (aka The Fat Man) (Sydney Greenstreet) is willing to do anything to get his hands on the bird. Anything. Gutman explains the bird is the The Maltese Falcon, encrusted with jewels but covered in black enamel. Brigid will also do anything to get her hands on the Falcon.

Ward Bond and Barton MacLane play the cops. They do the same with the roles reversed in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) which by the way is Ward Bond’s best acting. And that’s saying something as Ward Bond was in almost every movie made between 1930 and 1950.

Many consider The Maltese Falconthe first film noir. What really sets this movie apart from and above so many other films is the dialog and the story. And Bogart. And Greenstreet and Lorre.

The dialog in The Maltese Falcon is sharp and even stunning at times. The only current screenwriters I can think of that come close are David Mamet and Coen Brothers . “When you’re slapped you’ll take it and like it.” “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” “We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.” “’You’re a close-mouthed man?’ ‘No, I like to talk.’…’I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk’”

The story builds and interweaves beautifully. Be aware however, that The Maltese Falcon is a bit talky. It is not an action flick, and there is quite a bit of exposition, mostly lifted directly from Dashiell Hammett’s book by director and screenwriter John Huston.

I love Bogart.

The Maltese Falcon, directed by John Huston, written by Dashiell Hammett (book) and John Huston (screenplay). Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Ward Bond, Elisha Cook, Jr. 1941, 100 minutes.

Some photos are from The Annex because I have a VHS tape. I don’t bother to upgrade just because the format has changed.

Don’t forget to donate to film preservation! This year it’s for film noir.

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5 thoughts on “50 Greatest Movies – The Maltese Falcon

  1. Pingback: Ferdy on Films

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