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The Maltese Falcon (1931)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 13 June 1931 (USA)
A lovely dame with dangerous lies employs the services of a private detective, who is quickly caught up in the mystery and intrigue of a statuette known as the Maltese Falcon.

Director:

Roy Del Ruth

Writers:

Dashiell Hammett (based on the novel by), Maude Fulton (screen play & dialogue) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bebe Daniels ... Ruth Wonderly
Ricardo Cortez ... Sam Spade
Dudley Digges ... Casper Gutman
Una Merkel ... Effie Perine
Robert Elliott ... Detective Lt. Dundy
Thelma Todd ... Iva Archer
Otto Matieson ... Dr. Joel Cairo
Walter Long ... Miles Archer
Dwight Frye ... Wilmer Cook
J. Farrell MacDonald ... Det. Sgt. Tom Polhouse
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Storyline

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 J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Chinese

Release Date:

13 June 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dangerous Female See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When originally sold to television in the 1950s, the title was changed to "Dangerous Female" in order to avoid confusion with its illustrious remake, The Maltese Falcon (1941). Fifty years later, Turner Classic Movies restored its original title card. However, as recently as April 27, 2017, the service used by cable companies to provide data for their viewing guides used the "Dangerous Female" title for TCM's showing of the movie on that date. See more »

Goofs

In Spade's apartment, Ruth opens a wound on Cairo's forehead. Shortly afterward, when Cairo goes to see Gutman, there is no sign of the wound. See more »

Quotes

Sam Spade: I don't care who loves who! I won't play the sap! I won't walk in Thursby's, and I don't know how many others' footsteps! You killed Miles and you're going over for it.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The X-Files: The Pine Bluff Variant (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Golden Gate
(uncredited)
Written by James Brockman and James Kendis
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User Reviews

 
early version of the classic
23 May 2007 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Before Humphrey Bogart, Ricardo Cortez, as Sam Spade, was looking for that big black bird in 1931's "The Maltese Falcon," also starring Bebe Daniels, Una Merkel, and Thelma Todd. Since it's 1931 and therefore pre-code, the emphasis is on sex and Sam's libidinous nature. In the first scene, a woman leaves his office straightening the seams in her stockings. Bebe Daniels as Ms. Wonderly takes a bath in Sam's tub, strips in the kitchen - you name it. Thelma Todd is on hand as the wife of Spade's partner, Miles Archer who, if you know the story, gets it in the first reel. Sam's had a thing with her too. He keeps them all on the hook.

I found this version slow going, mainly because it's an early talkie - the dialogue pacing isn't quite right. You can drive a truck through the pauses. The only one with a more modern feel for the dialogue is the handsome, smiling Cortez, and he's absolutely marvelous as Spade. His Spade is more relaxed than Bogie's, less sardonic, more delightfully crooked - in short, he has a lot more fun. He fits just as well into this version as world-weary Bogie does into the 1941 version.

Bebe Daniels is attractive and alluring as the greedy and totally ruthless Miss Wonderly. The gay subplot between Greenstreet and Lorre everyone assumes isn't as apparent in this film between Wilmer (Dwight Frye) and Caspar Guttman (Dudley Digges).

I found the comments in the first post on the actors' approaches to their roles very interesting; I'm not sure I totally agree, but for sure, Cortez spoke louder and Daniels did underplay (which she did not do in "42nd Street" - at all). However, as far as the pace, I still Cortez did better in keeping the dialogue going than anyone else.

This is a fascinating film - so different from the 1941 version, which I hope to see this evening - it's definitely worth catching.


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