Sam Spade is quite the womanizer. When his secretary tells him the new customer waiting outside his office is a knockout, he wastes no time before seeing her. It turns out she's a knockout with money. And she wants to spend it on his services as a private detective. She has some story about wanting to protect her sister. Neither he nor his partner, Miles Archer, believes it. But with the money she's paying, who cares? The job proves to be more dangerous than either of them expected. It involves not just the lovely dame with the dangerous lies, but also the sweaty Casper Gutman, the fey Joel Cairo, and the thuggish young Wilmer Cook. Three crooks, and all of them are looking for the statuette of a black bird they call the Maltese Falcon. Written by
Vitaphone production reels #4808-4816 and #4781 (trailer) See more »
Visiting Wonderly, Spade finds that she has been reading a book. In close-up, its title is shown as "The Strange Case of the Little Black Bird", with a picture of the eponymous falcon on the jacket. But in other shots, it is "Famous Criminals and their Trials" (possibly the 1926 book by Sidney Theodore Felstead), with human portraits on the jacket. See more »
Despite the silent-to-talkie transition style, I liked this one better than the Bogart one. In fact, I think it exposes Bogart's counterfeit toughness (among other things, he was too short). Ricardo Cortez was a great choice. Perhaps George Raft might have been a better Sam Spade in the 1941 version. The similarity in dialogue between the two movies begs the issue of insufficient originality in the later version.
Comparing 1931 v 1941 characters, I think only Sydney Greenstreet provides a more interesting product. As the same (or similar) character, Alison Skipworth, as Madame Barabbas in Satan Met a Lady 1936, finishes second. From that same movie, Marie Wilson finishes second to Una Merkel as Effie, with 1941's Lee Patrick a distant third.
I like them all. I like the structure of the mystery. It reminds me (it's just me) a little of John Le Carre mysteries where, as in Tinker Tailor, the investigator knows the answer from the beginning.
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