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Humphrey Bogart died nearly fifty years ago, but polls still put him at the top of all-time Hollywood stars. What turns a man into a legend? The man himself wasn't much: a slight build, not too tall, no Stallone muscles to swell his suit. What he had in classic films like `The Maltese Falcon' was a voice that cut through a script like a knife. `The Maltese Falcon,' directed by John Huston in 1941, reprised Dashiell Hammett's thriller. (It had been filmed before.) Hammett practically invented the tough guy so deep in cynicism nobody could hope to put anything past him. The novel, thick with plot, wasn't easy for director John Huston to untangle. Few people who cherish this film can summarize its story in a sentence or two. I'll try. San Francisco private eye Sam Spade (Bogart) is pulled into the search for a fabulously valuable statue by a woman who seeks his help. First, his partner is killed, then Spade pushes through her lies to uncover connections to an effete foreigner (Peter Lorre) and a mysterious kingpin (Sydney Greenstreet). The story unfolds like a crumpled paper. But the whodunit becomes less important than how we respond to the strong screen presence of Bogart and his co-stars. That's what makes `The Maltese Falcon' a classic. We see more and appreciate more each time we watch it. The art of Huston and Bogart doesn't come across until a second or third viewing. Huston invented what the French called film noir, in honor of Hollywood films (often `B' movies, cheap to make, second movies in double features) that took no-name stars into city streets to pit tough guys, often with a vulnerable streak, against dangerous dames. Audiences knew that when the tough guy said, `I'm wise to you, babe,' he'd be dead within a reel or two. Bogart was luckier than most noir heroes, but it cost. Struggling to maintain his own independence against the claims of love or his own penchant towards dishonesty the Bogart hero can do little better than surrender, with a rueful shrug, to the irony his survival depends on. The climax of `The Maltese Falcon' ranks with the last scene of `Casablanca,' another Bogart vehicle, in showing how the tough guy has to put himself back together after his emotions almost get the better of him. That assertion of strength, bowed but not broken, defines the enduring quality of Bogart on screen. For Huston, telling this story posed a different problem. Telling it straight wasn't possible too many twists. Huston chose to focus on characters. One way to appreciate Huston's choices is to LISTEN to the movie. Hear the voices. Notice how in long sequences narrating back story, Huston relies on the exotic accents of his characters to keep us interested. Could we endure the scene in which Greenstreet explains the history of the Maltese falcon unless his clipped, somewhat prissy English accent held our attention? Also, we watch Bogart slip into drug-induced sleep while Greenstreet drones on. Has any director thought of a better way to keep us interested during a long narrative interlude? And is there a bit of wit in our watching Bogart nod off during a scene which, if told straight, would make US doze? All of this leads to the ending, minutes of screen time in which more goes on, gesture by gesture, than a million words could summarize. He loves her, maybe, but he won't be a sucker. The cops come in, and the emotional color shifts to gray, the color of film noir heroes like Bogart. Bars on the elevator door as Brigid descends in police custody foreshadow her fate in the last image of Huston's film. But after the film, we're left with Spade, whom we like and loathe, a man whose sense of justice squares, just this once, with our own, maybe. Black and white morality prevails in a black and white movie, but Sam Spade remains gray and so does our response to this film classic.
Bogart. The coolest guy to ever live?
Have you ever wondered what makes someone possess an essence that's defined as being "cool"? They seem to have that combination between imagery and soul that few people truly have. Is it in the style of clothes you wear or one's knowledge of independence? Is it the way you comb your hair or your unkempt humility for everything out there? It could be in your talk or how you walk, but maybe it's more about what you say and where you're going. In a sense it's an attitude that seeks to define character and break the mold of control. It's the fine line between knowing when to speak up and when saying less means more. So is Bogart the coolest guy to ever live? In a single word, absolutely.
The Maltese Falcon is basically a showcase for Bogart. A role that seems to be made for him, even with two previous attempts at the film. He is and always was born to play Sam Spade. The tough guy private investigator, who always has the right things to say. More likely to fire a witty comeback than a gun. Able to fall in love, even if only for the moment, and then send her to the gallows. All in the name of doing the right thing. It's not an emotional business.
The movie itself wrote the book of the crime and mystery drama story. Probably the best written plot in it's genre. No doubt that Bogart makes the character come alive, with that infectious voice and his uncompromising demeanor. But the movie itself is, to say the least, very good. The ending just does it for me. The last couple of lines are some of the best in film history.
Although it took me a while to finally see this film, I realize that it's one of Bogart's triumphs and has all the main reasons why I love the guy so much. Please, see this film and remember Bogart as he was.
"Heavy. What is it? The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Forties were the years when Hollywood decided that the mystery
thriller deserved big-budget, big-star treatment, threw up a new kind
of hero who was exactly right for his time: they were the fabulous
years which established the private eye adventure as the irremovable
all-time favorite in the whole field of suspense
The field was so
rich, the choice so lavish in that decade, that it was difficult to
know where memory should stop and call "Encore".
As the author of the screenplay, Huston made every effort to do justice, and remain faithful, to Dashiell Hammett's novel But in remaining faithful, the newest version asked audiences to accept the complicated plot at its full strength and that is where the film's main flaw occurs Names, murders, and intrigues turn up so quickly that it is extremely difficult to understand exactly what is happening in this tale of an assortment of characters in search of a fabulous jewel-encrusted statue
Probably in no other film will a viewer find a gallery of such diverse human beings whose perfect1y constructed portrayals remain permanently locked in one's memory
Mary Astor's Brigid O'Shaughnessy is a striking picture of feminine deceit and betrayal Able to shed tears on command, she is a confirmed liar who can be as deadly as she is beautiful; she can make passionate love to Bogart, but wouldn't hesitate a moment to kill him if it suited her plan Her performance is surely one of the screen's most brilliant portrayals of duplicity masked with fascination
Sydney Greenstreet, in his movie debut, was equally memorable as the menacingly mountainous man behind the search for the elusive black bird, and almost stole the picture Cunning, determined, appreciative of the fine arts, Greenstreetwho seemed to get more dangerous as he got more imperturbably politeis a man who would devote his entire life to a single quest if need be
Peter Lorre's Joel Cairo was a resolute picture of classic villainy With curled hair and impeccably clean dress, he is an unpredictable accomplice of Greenstreet, difficult to deal with
But it is Bogart's portrayal of Sam Spade that remains classic in its construction Obviously cynical, he still maintains his own code of ethics which he adheres to faithfully He is doubtful, but not foolhardy He is courageous, but not without fear Spade uses everyone he comes in contact with He wins not because he's smarter than his enemies, but because he is the only character in a central position Spade is every bit as ruthless as the crooks who try to use him His tactics in dealing with them, however, are necessary for his survival...
His treatment of the two women in the film seems equally as harsh, but neither is a wide eyed innocent and both attempt to deceive him in one manner or another His exchanges with Brigid O'Shaughnessy are electric... Their mutual attraction is undeniable... But Spade will play the fool for no woman He is a loner, but he has contacts, and knows where to go for what he wants Even with very little money, he is totally incorruptible He has no apparent friends He is laconic, but he can throw a wisecrack as fast as he can throw a punch...
"The Maltese Falcon" molded the image we remember of Bogart all through the early years of the Fortiesan image elaborated upon and reinforced in "Casablanca," and the one which all Bogart fans remember with great affection and admiration
"The Maltese Falcon", scripted and directed by Hollywood first-timer John Huston (from Dashiell Hammett's novel), would go on to become an American film classic. Humphrey Bogart chews the scenery in his star-making turn as acid-tongued private eye Sam Spade, whose association with the beautiful and aloof Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), neurotic Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), and morbidly obese Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his Oscar-nominated screen debut) over the recovery of the title object, sets in motion a movie experience that is as much crackling as it is dazzling. While much of the action and dialogue is considerably dated by modern standards, the film's essential power to mystify and entrance remains undiminished despite its age. While this was the third adaptation of Hammett's story (the first was made in 1931 and the second was "Satan Met a Lady" (1936)), this is also the best remembered and most praised, due largely in part to Bogart's seemingly effortless portrayal of the tough but softhearted, world-weary hero. Mary Astor and Lee Patrick were, respectively, the definitive femme fatale and girl Friday, and the villianous roles of Cairo, Gutman and Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) were equally remarkable. What may not be wholly obvious is the fact that these three men have homosexual tendencies (as given in the novel), but just look at what's given: Cairo's delicate speech and manner, Wilmer's questionable quick tempered attitude towards Spade (could this be covering up the fact that he finds Spade attractive?) and Gutman's clutching of Spade's arm when Sam arrives at his hotel room. A polished film noir that gave rise to Bogart's mounting popularity. (Sidenote: The character of Sam Spade was originally offered to George Raft, who turned it down. Raft also turned down "Casablanca" (1942), "High Sierra" (1941) and William Wyler's "Dead End" (1937), all of which went to Bogart and helped to boost his star status. Bogart had Raft to thank for his enduring popularity.) A must-see masterpiece. ****
The Maltese Falcon has a totally atypical Hollywood history. After two
previous filmings of Dashiell Hammett's novel, the third time a classic
film was achieved. Usually the original is best and the remakes are the
These characters that John Huston wrote and breathed life into with his direction are so vital and alive even 65 years after the premiere of The Maltese Falcon. You can watch this one fifty times and still be entertained by it.
I'm not sure how the code let this one slip through. Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade is partners with Jerome Cowan in a detective agency Spade and Archer. Client Mary Astor comes into their office requesting help in getting rid of a man who's intruding in on her life. Jerome Cowan as Miles Archer eagerly takes the assignment and gets himself bumped off for his troubles.
Cowan is quite the skirt chaser and he certainly isn't the first or the last man to think with his hormones. That's OK because Bogart's been fooling around with his wife, Gladys George. That gives the police, Barton MacLane and Ward Bond, motive enough to suspect Bogart might have had a hand in Cowan's death.
As fans of The Maltese Falcon are well aware, there's quite a bit more to the story than that. Bogart's investigation leads him to a crew of adventurous crooks, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr. who are in pursuit of a statue of a Falcon that is said to be encrusted in gold and precious jewels.
The Maltese Falcon is a milestone film role for Humphrey Bogart. It is the first time that Bogey was ever first billed in an A picture while he was at Warner Brothers. In fact this is also John Huston's first film as a director. He had previously just been a screenwriter and in fact got an Oscar nomination for the screenplay he wrote here. There are some who will argue that this first film is Huston's best work and I'd be hard up to dispute that.
After a long career on stage The Maltese Falcon was the screen debut of Sydney Greenstreet. Greenstreet may be orally flatulent here, but there's no doubt to the menace he exudes while he's on screen. Greenstreet got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Donald Crisp for How Green Was My Valley. Greenstreet created quite a gallery of characters for the next ten years, mostly for Warner Brothers.
A favorite character of mine in The Maltese Falcon has always been Lee Patrick as Effie, the secretary at Spade&Archer. She's loyal, efficient and crushing out on Bogey big time. This and the part of Mrs. Topper in the television series Topper are Lee Patrick's career roles. I never watch The Maltese Falcon without hoping that Bogey will recognize how really "precious" Effie is.
The Maltese Falcon will be entertaining people hundreds of years from now. And please no more remakes of this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Private detectives Sam Spade and Miles Archer are hired to follow a man
called Thursby for a woman. When Archer is murdered and Thursby gunned
down, the police and Spade are keen to get answers. When the woman
reveals she was lying about her motivations and her identity (she is
really Bridget O'Shaughnessy), Sam finds out that she and Thursby were
hiding a valuable statute of a falcon. The situation gets more complex
when Bridget and Sam come under pressure form other sources that also
want the falcon for themselves - namely the pompous Kasper Gutman and
the weasely Joel Cairo.
The fact that this film is considered a classic almost makes it difficult to come to this with an objective view, but I did the best I could when I came to see it again for the first time in quite a few years. The film is pretty much a classic that deserves it reputation and stands out as a great bit of hardboiled detective stories from the period. The plot is a little complex at the start as the characters are introduced, but it quickly settles down to be a film with a solid plot that is enjoyable despite the fact that it falls down occasionally. The plot details are too often blurred or just forgotten about - giving the impression of a plot that is more complex than it actually is. However this isn't a problem as the film has enough pace and tough energy to cover these weaknesses and never let you linger for very long on them. The direction from Huston is very good, using almost totally interior shots to increase the tension and the feeling - amazingly this was his first film as director, but you wouldn't know it to watch it. Of course, needless to say, the writing (both source and screenplay) is top notch and is one of the big selling points of the film.
The dialogue is really tough and full of memorable lines, 'When you're slapped you'll take it and like it' probably being the one that everybody remembers. A big reason that the dialogue works as well as it does is down to the fantastic performances from all the cast, although having said that it is dominated by the lead. Bogart summed up his most famous roles for future generations in this one film. He is a complex guy who we're never sure is straight of crooked, he is tough and violent - sleeping with his partner's wife and unafraid of anything. The dialogue fits him like a glove and this is one of my favourite of his performances as it is the one of the ones where he seems to have got everything bang on. Astor is good because, for me, she doesn't fit into the usual role of femme fatale - she is quite needy and demur and that is even more dangerous than the women who are overtly sexual and manipulative, as they were frequently in the later noirs. Lorre is the wonderful, weedy, snivelling character than he does so well and is remembered for. Likewise Greenstreet is a great actor and manages to be overblown without being silly. Cook has a small role but shows his talents in little ways - his reaction when he realises how expendable he is to Gutman is great.
Overall this is a classic film that will please all fans of detective stories and the noir genre. It has a flawed plot but it's dialogue and tough energy cover those up enough to keep things moving all the time. The characters are complex, none more so than Spade himself who is as smart as he is gullible and as cold as he is loving , and they are brought to life by a series of great performances. On top of all this, the film is dominated by a Bogart performance that acts as a perfect example of his most famous work.
With a fine combination of cast, characters, story, and atmosphere, this
classic is one of the most entertaining films of its kind, enjoyable even
after several viewings. It gets you right into the action and introduces
you to a list of interesting personalities, who mesh together nicely and who
are also matched well with the cast members. Beyond that, it's also
effective as a character study involving greed, trust and distrust, and
Sam Spade is an ideal role for Bogart, giving him plenty to work with and some very good dialogue as well. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are very entertaining, providing suitable foils for Bogart, and they really take the film up a notch. The rest of the cast also works well (worth mentioning is Elisha Cook, Jr., whose character doesn't do a lot, but who provides Bogart with some very amusing moments at his expense). The story is nicely adapted from the novel, and each scene is constructed well, with everything moving along nicely from start to finish.
If you are a fan of either film noir or mysteries, make this a must-see. There are very few films that work as well as "The Maltese Falcon".
Seven decades have passed but the suspense and thrill of The Maltese
Falcon still reign supreme. The movie, despite being in black & white,
appears strikingly refreshing both to the eyes and the intellect.
Primarily remembered as John Huston's directorial debut, the movie
played a decisive role in giving Film-Noire its true identity as a
genre. The Maltese Falcon also gave Humphrey Bogart his highly deserved
super-stardom that had hitherto eluded him. Huston creates an
environment of suspicion, doubt and uncertainty that is so convoluted
that even Hitchcock would be proud of it. The movie has multiple layers
of mystery and suspense that keeps the viewer engaged throughout.
Sam Spade is a private detective who runs an agency with his partner Miles Archer. An ostensibly naive lady, Miss Wanderly offers them a task to pursue a man, Floyd Thursby, who has allegedly run off with her younger sister. The over-simplicity of task arouses Spade's suspicion, but Wanderly's lucrative offer makes the duo overlook it initially. Miles is killed during the pursuit and the police inform Spade of the mishap. Spade only discreetly tells the police that Miles was after a man named Thursby without disclosing anything about Miss Wandely. The police soon find Thursby dead as well and suspect Spade for killing him in an act of revenge. Soon Miles Archer's widow shows up at Spade's office and insinuates of her romantic involvement with Spade, who shuns her away after she tries to incriminate him for the murder. The police come across an anonymous lead and begin suspecting Spade for killing his partner, Miles. The plot thickens with the entry a couple of obscure characters including Joel Cairo, who happens be an acquaintance of Miss Wanderly. He is in pursuit of a highly precious, antique, gold statuette of Maltese Falcon and offers Spade five grands to help him find it. A game of cat and mouse soon ensues, between the various stake holders, which becomes deadlier as the stakes are raised.
Humphrey Bogart perfectly fits into the shoes of Spadea sleek and sharp sleuthand makes it his own in a manner that only someone of his grit and caliber could. Bogart is in top form right from the inception to the finale, stealing the spotlight in almost every scene that is he is part of. Bogart could only demonstrate his prodigious talent and acting prowess in short bursts during his long "B movie" stint in which he was mostly type-casted as a gangster. The Maltese Falcon was Bogart's big break after years of anticipation and he didn't leave a single stone unturned to prove his mettle. Bogart shows his class and stamps his authority as a performer during the portrayal of Spade: he is ever so quick-witted thanks to his sublime articulacy and his prowess at repartee seems unparalleled; the inherent cynicism in Spade and the perspicacity with which he operates soon became Bogart's trademark and catapulted him to super-stardom. Many regard Bogart's performance in Casablanca as his absolute best, but I rate his portrayal of Spade second only to his supernal portrayal of Dobbs in The Treasure of Sierre Madre, where he took acting to hitherto unattainable and unforeseeable heights.
John Huston uses the Midas touch he had as a screenwriter to strike all the right cords in his directorial debut. Almost everyone in the supporting cast gives a memorable performance with special mention of Peter Lorre as the deceptive Joel Cairo, Sydney Greenstreet as the witty yet dangerous Kasper Gutman and Mary Astor as the scheming Brigid O' Shaughnessy. The taut plot of the movie, which is masterfully adapted from the novel of the same name by Huston himself, is well complemented by the impressively written dialogs that are delivered with an equal prowess. Amidst the everlasting suspense the movie has an obvious undertone of dark humor that adds great value to the movie. The cinematography undoubtedly features amongst the best works of the time.
The Maltese Falcon is not merely a Noire masterpiece but also a testament to the true spirit of cinema that has kept itself alive despite decades of relentless mutilation and sabotage in the name of commercial movie-making. Despite being devoid of modern-day gimmicks the movie is incredibly high on suspense and holds the viewer in a vice-like grip throughout its runtime. It's a real shame that movies like these are seldom made these days. The tone of the movie is such that it makes suspense thrillers of today appear like kids cartoon.
PS. The movie is an ode to Bogart, Huston and all those who made it a reality. It's suspense cinema at its absolute best with a completely different treatment to themes propagated by the likes of Hitchcock. It's a must for all the Bogart fans worldwide, and absolutely essential for all those who have a penchant for Film-Noire as a genre. 10/10
While there are films that are considered classic for their technical
achievements and classics that resound with audiences for a feel-good
emotion, The Maltese Falcon stands in that group that is a classic for
every aspect of its creative makeup. With a brilliant script, talented
direction and some outstanding performances, The Maltese Falcon stands
up today as well as it did upon release.
When Sam Spade -- played brilliantly by Humphrey Bogart -- and his partner Archer are hired to tail a rich eccentric by a woman who claims her sister is being unwittingly kept separated from her by the rich eccentric, it seems like just another case. But when Archer and the eccentric are gunned down and all fingers point to Sam Spade for conflicting yet damning reasons, Spade is thrown into a whirlwind of deceptions that all point in one direction: a Maltese statue of a falcon.
Bogart demonstrates clearly why he is one of the great classic actors of the 20th century, and indeed one of the most natural screen actors ever. His charisma, charm and intense masculine looks give him a presence that simply dominates the screen. With a host of other great talents to fill the screen, there is not a moment of wasted performance. The direction is tight and driving and the pacing never lets up. And the script demonstrates why there are less and less truly great films being released in present day: the writers and directors of the golden age of cinema knew that subtlety works ten times more effectively than the modern in-your-face all-the-time works.
The Maltese Falcon is a timeless work that deserves its place in the list of greatest films ever made.
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
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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