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The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Approved | | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery | 18 October 1941 (USA)
A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

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Storyline

Spade and Archer is the name of a San Francisco detective agency. That's for Sam Spade and Miles Archer. The two men are partners, but Sam doesn't like Miles much. A knockout, who goes by the name of Miss Wonderly, walks into their office; and by that night everything's changed. Miles is dead. And so is a man named Floyd Thursby. It seems Miss Wonderly is surrounded by dangerous men. There's Joel Cairo, who uses gardenia-scented calling cards. There's Kasper Gutman, with his enormous girth and feigned civility. Her only hope of protection comes from Sam, who is suspected by the police of one or the other murder. More murders are yet to come, and it will all be because of these dangerous men -- and their lust for a statuette of a bird: the Maltese Falcon. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Another Great Story from the author of "The Thin Man!" See more »


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Approved | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

18 October 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Gent from Frisco  »

Box Office

Budget:

$375,000 (estimated)
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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It was producer Henry Blanke who gave John Huston what he recalled as the single greatest piece of advice he would ever receive as a director: "Shoot each scene as if it was the most important scene in the film." See more »

Goofs

(at around 3 mins) When he first enters his office, Archer is smoking a cigarette with his left hand, and appears to be holding a match in his lowered right hand. He seems to have been caught holding the match he used to light the cigarette before entering the scene, and disposes of it by casually dropping it to the floor. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Sam Spade: Yes, sweetheart?
Effie Perine: There's a girl wants to see you. Her name's Wonderly.
Sam Spade: Customer?
Effie Perine: I guess so. You'll want to see her anyway. She's a knockout.
Sam Spade: Shoo her in, Effie darling, shoo her in.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Animaniacs: Deduces Wild/Rest in Piece/U.N. Me (1995) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Fat Man Cometh
4 November 2007 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Considered by many film historians as the very first noir film, "The Maltese Falcon" is cinematically important also for making Humphrey Bogart into a Hollywood star, and for being the debut of John Huston as film Director.

The film's story is complex and convoluted, typical of detective films of that era, and involves a valuable statuette. The plot stalls and meanders throughout most of the film, as we encounter an assortment of strange characters and side issues. But this is not a plot-driven film. It is character-driven.

And the main character, of course, is PI Sam Spade (Bogart). He's not a particularly nice guy. He comes across as overconfident and egotistic. He smirks a lot. But he's tough as nails. And he knows how to nail the bad guys. A big part of the film is Spade's relationship to femme fatale Brigid (Mary Astor). They engage each other in a battle of wits. And there's more than a hint of romantic involvement between the two. But Brigid is the one who propels Spade into the deceiving and double-crossing world of bad guys who yearn with greed for the priceless Maltese Falcon.

Enter Kasper Gutman, that thoroughly rotund and intimidating (in a gentlemanly sort of way) king of greed, portrayed with verve and panache by the inimitable Sydney Greenstreet. Gutman, AKA the "Fat Man", is nothing if not erudite and self-assured. In one scene, Sam Spade makes a bold offer. Gutman responds articulately: "That's an attitude sir that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides, because as you know sir, in the heat of action, men are likely to forget where their best interests lie ...".

And Peter Lorre is a hoot as Gutman's mischievous elf, Joel Cairo, who tries, without success, to threaten Sam Spade, but only succeeds at getting on Sam's nerves.

The film's high contrast B&W lighting renders an effective noir look and feel, one that would be copied in films for years to come. Acting varies from very good to overly melodramatic. The script is very talky. For the most part, the film is just a series of conversations that take place in interior sets.

Stylistic and cinematically innovative, "The Maltese Falcon" has endured as a film classic. I suspect the main reason for its continued popularity is the continued popularity of Bogart. But I personally prefer the performance of Sydney Greenstreet, the enticing fat man. Yet, together they would reappear in later films, one of which would follow, in 1942, as the classic of all classics.


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Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon marhefka
Where was Miles Archer killed? vikkiwest
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unbroken seven-minute take nycstef
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One Bogart line I thought out of place merman1983
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