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
John Huston and company tickled themselves with a number of other on-set jokes. As Mary Astor recounted in her autobiography, the cast and crew had a system, whereby Huston would signal for a certain practical joke to be played for visitors to the set. For the benefit of visiting star-struck social clubwomen, the "No. 5" had Humphrey Bogart going into a prepared act with Sydney Greenstreet. He'd start yelling and cursing at him, calling him a fat old fool. "Who the hell do you think you are? You upstaged me, and I'm telling you I'm not having any--," at which point Huston would jump into the act, holding back Bogart's mock rage. Very quickly, the embarrassed and disillusioned ladies would shuffle towards the nearest exit. Meanwhile, the "No. 10" had Peter Lorre coming out of Astor's dressing room at the appropriate moment, adjusting his fly and saying, "See you later Mary." See more »
(at around 47 mins) When Effie is on the phone with Iva, we hear her say, "No, not yet," but her mouth is closed. See more »
I love this movie. I didn't love it until I'd watched it a couple of times.
And I didn't love it quite so much until I'd read Harvey Greenberg's "Movies on Your Mind."
But I now think that, within the strictures of its budget, it's about as good as it can get. Sam Spade is a marvelous character in this film. He gives practically nothing away, while gathering information from others simply by letting them talk, kind of like a shrink.
And it's hard to believe that they could have found a cast that fit the templates of the novel so perfectly. Sidney Greenstreet IS the "fat man." Peter Lorre IS the queer. My nomination for best scene: When Greenstreet attempts to peel off the black enamel from the captured bird and finds that it's nothing but lead and begins to hack away at it, as if it were alive and he were trying to kill it. Nothing is more amusing than a fat man lipid with rage.
If you see this one, and I hope you do, make note of the phenomenal black and white photography. (I hope you have a good connection.) Watch, for instance, the glissade of the camera when Bogart says, "You have brains. Yes, you do."
In case you're worried about this being too sophisticated for enjoyment by an ordinary audience, I should mention that I showed this (in one connection or another, I forget) to a class of Marines at Camp Lejeune. They enjoyed the hell out of it, especially the scene in which Mary Astor kicks Peter Lorre in the shins.
Don't miss it.
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