“What is it?”
“The stuff dreams are made of.”
The closing line to the definitive detective film. Based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel of the same name and filmed twice before (in 1931 as the excellent (and now very rarely seen) “The Maltese Falcon” starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade and in 1936 as “Satan Met A Lady” with Bette Davis) but as Halliwell’s Film Guide puts it “A remake that shows the difference between excellence and brilliance”.
Humphrey Bogart took over the reigns from George Raft as Samuel Spade whose partner is killed and he is thrown into a web of intrigue and the hunt for a mystical statue of a black bird known as the Maltese Falcon. With a cast to die for that includes Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet (in his debut), Mary Astor and Elisha Cook Jnr all perfect as is the cinematography of Arthur Edeson, whose style led to the term known as Film Noir, of which this is considered to be the first film.
What is the most astonishing is that this is John Huston’s debut film (in the same year as Orson Welles “Citizen Kane”)and how meticulously planned this is (considering how knockabout some of Huston’s later films were). After this Huston only seemed at home with Bogart (Across The Pacific, Key Largo, Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, The African Queen and Beat The Devil), their where some classics without Bogart (The Asphalt Jungle, The Red Badge Of Courage, The Misfits, The Man Who Would Be King), but they were few and far between, coming from one of the big Hollywood families (his father was Walter Huston and his daughter is Angelica), he started as a screen writer and then worked into the director’s chair and did some acting (most notable in The Bible as Noah and Chinatown), he was a larger than life character and this come across in much of this films cracking dialogue.
Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) “I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously, unless you keep in practise. Now sir, we’ll talk if you like, I’ll tell you right out, I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk”
Spade to Cairo (Peter Lorre) “When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it!”
Spade to Brigid “Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be”
Pretty near perfect.
US Premiere New York 18/10/1941
DF Viewing 29/03/1941