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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

Vitaphone production reels #4808-4816 and #4781 (trailer) See more »

Goofs

When Ruth displays the envelope while on the couch, she is shown in one shot beginning to stand up with it in her right hand. In the next shot, it has switched to her left hand. See more »

Quotes

Casper Gutman: You are here, Mr. Spade, as Miss Wonderly's representative?
Sam Spade: No, I'm here looking out for myself.
See more »

Connections

Version of Target: Harry (1969) See more »

Soundtracks

Golden Gate
(uncredited)
Written by James Brockman and James Kendis
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not bad first version (which John Huston must have seen!)
6 January 2000 | by mgmaxSee all my reviews

This is a fascinating version of the story definitively filmed ten years later by John Huston, because of the ways in which it comes close to capturing the Hammett novel-- and the ways in which it doesn't. As a pre-Code film it's often more explicit than the Huston version-- especially about the fact that Spade was having an affair with his partner's wife, and about the homosexuality of the male crooks (this movie's Gutman is plainly depicted as a seedy john rather than as the refined aesthete Sydney Greenstreet would play). But hardboiled attitude is what really matters, and Ricardo Cortez (a good early talkie actor who always tried hard) just isn't playing Hammett's hardboiled, unsentimental Spade-- he's playing the more typical suave gentleman detective of the period, like Philo Vance. As a result, it's the love affair with Ms. Wonderly that takes over, and the shocking bite of Hammett's ending is lost. It was capturing the Hammett worldview that was John Huston's great accomplishment, and that made his Falcon so influential over the films noir to follow.

All the same Huston, who was working at Warner Bros. when this was made, must have liked something about this movie-- the scene where Spade first meets Joel Cairo (Otto Mattiesen, doing an excellent Peter Lorre imitation years before the fact) is repeated almost shot for shot and inflection for inflection in the Huston version, the only such case of direct inspiration I spotted here. Mattiesen, a familiar silent era character actor, sadly died not long after the film came out; had he lived he certainly could have had as interesting a talkie career as Lorre eventually did.


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