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The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Not Rated | | 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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Top Rated Movies #217 | Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 4 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

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Iva Archer
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Frank Richman
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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

Taglines:

A guy without a conscience! A dame without a heart! See more »

Genres:

Film-Noir | Mystery

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

18 October 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Gent from Frisco  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$375,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,772,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

George Raft was originally cast as Sam Spade. He allegedly turned it down because it was "not an important picture," taking advantage of a clause in his contract that said he did not have to work on remakes. However, according to author John McCarty, author of "The Films of John Huston", in an ICONS Radio interview (10-07-07) the real reason Raft bowed out was because this was the directorial debut of John Huston, who had been a successful screenwriter. Raft didn't want to put his career in the hands of a first-time director. See more »

Goofs

The crawl at the beginning of the movie refers to the falcon as being "encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels". Yet when we finally see it, apparently the falcon's surfaces are all smooth. Even with the black enamel coating to disguise it, should we not be able to see the rough texture of the jewels below the enamel? (This has been bothering me for 50 years, yet I have never heard anyone else mention it.) 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 Pinky and the Brain: Brain Noir (1997) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Fat Man Cometh
4 November 2007 | by 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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