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The Maltese Falcon
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
John Huston
Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade
Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy
Gladys George as Iva Archer
Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo
Barton MacLane as Det. Lt. Dundy
Lee Patrick as Effie Perine
Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman
Ward Bond as Det. Tom Polhaus
Jerome Cowan as Miles Archer
Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer Cook
James Burke as Luke
Murray Alper as Frank Richman
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 Wanderly, 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 Wanderly 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.
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The Maltese Falcon
I make no secret of the fact that 1941 holds a three-way tie for my favorite cinematic year. I laugh when people complain that Citizen Kane was "robbed" of the Best Picture Oscar in a year that produced such classics as SUllivan's Travels, How Green Was My Valley (a film that was more than deserving of winning top prize), and The Maltese Falcon. John Huston, son of the great Walter Huston had never before made a film when he began his feature, The Maltese Falcon. Starring Humphrey Bogart, who I also make no secret of absolutely adoring, the story follows the pursuit of a priceless statue by a band of criminals and a private eye. Bogart and Huston would collaborate multiple times throughout their careers, always seeming to attempt to capitalize on the magic they made in The Maltese Falcon. It's incredible when a first-time director can make a film as good as The Maltese Falcon, which must go down as one of the best debuts of all time.

Working as a private eye in a San Fransico detective agency, Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) are approached by a woman who calls herself Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor). Spade and Archer who have always shared a tempestuous relationship argue over how to handle the case, when Archer insists on providing the protection Miss Wonderly has requested. Things change pretty quickly as Archer is killed the night he is protecting Miss Wonderly, along with another man, and Spade quickly finds himself in the middle of an international mystery. It is soon revealed that Miss Wonderly is surrounded by dangerous people, all of whom Spade soon gets the chance to meet. Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) is a man after a mysterious take who uses scents to incapacitate his victims. She also has Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) on her heels, a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants ann under the guise of feigned civility. The only one seemingly able to provide her some protection is Sam Spade who has now been implicated in the murder of Archer or Floyd Thursby, the man that was also killed the same night at Archer. Finding the Maltese Falcon the criminals are hunting for may be the only way for Spade to help himself, or anyone else.

Huston, a novice director made a brilliant decision to film a good deal of action over the shoulder of Bogart's shoulder. Allowing the audience to see a majority of the action from the point of view of the protagonist was an exceptionally innovative way to keep the audience engaged. Huston Not that innovative camera work is needed to keep one engaged during a Humphrey Bogart film. He truly was one of the best actors in the history of cinema to grace the screens. Peter Lorre, a consistently strong supporting actor, was also an absolute joy to watch. The symmetry achieved by Huston, especially in shots framing Humphrey Bogart, reveal an early expertise present in the filmmaker. an exceptional cast helmed by an excellent leading man Humphrey Bogart, a more than apt director, and a plot based on the work of the wonderful Dashiell Hammett produced an American classic that still persists nearly 80 years after its release.
About Mary's hairstyle...
Yes, Mary Astor seems a bit matronly in this film. This version was made under the Hayes Code, meaning that the characters and their behaviour had to be

hinted at. Her character is a serial seducer who masquerades as a perfect

lady, hence her tight girdle, dowdy but 'good' clothes and terribly English

accent. Her style of beauty, though, might be better suited to the 20s and 30s of her film heyday.

Cairo, Guttman and Wilmer are gay in the book and the film is right to drop the hints it does. Look at the way Guttman clutches Spade's arm to him when

they first meet, places a hand on his knee and pours him a stiff whisky. The

swooping soundtrack and Spade's raised eyebrows as he sniffs Cairo's

visiting card is supposed to give the game away. Sorry if I'm offending

anybody, but look up 'gunsel' in a slang dictionary.

A theme of the film is that no one is what they seem. Even Spade isn't as

crooked as he's made out to be, angel. xxxxxxx
"I Won't Play The Sap For You."
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 inferior product.

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.
A Classic Movie that Deserves the Position
This is one of the most famous movies ever made. Based on a book the movie was first made in 1931 and later remade in 1941 with Humphrey Bogart playing the detective Sam Spade. Most critics, including Bill Collins, directs us to focus on the characters in the movie because it is the characterization that makes this such a great movie. I agree to a point, but I think the whole issue of the Maltese Falcon makes this such a dark movie.

The book upon which this movie is based is considered to be a change in direction with the way detective stories are made. Edgar Allen Poe was the creator of the detective story and it was developed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but their detectives were intelligent, honourable men. Sam Spade could be seen as one of the first "Down and Out detectives." The author of The Maltese Falcons describes private detectives as police officers who do not like to work with people but rather go it alone. These characters are more crooked and ruthless than police officers. It is no wonder that the police in The Maltese Falcon are somewhat cold towards Sam Spade. Spade works with fellow Detective Miles Archer and the movie opens with a young lady, O'Shannahey, hiring Spade and Archer to trail some guy who has stolen her sister from her. Suddenly Archer is shot and the movie starts into motion.

The Maltese Falcon was a statuette that was stolen by pirates as it was being delivered to the King of Spain and it has supposedly surfaced in San-Fransisco. The movie is not a search for the falcon but rather people all wanting a piece of it. The fat man, who is the villain of the movie, wants the falcon and pays Spade a lot of money to get it. He doesn't want to part with his money and has his gunsel Wilma to dispose of Captain Jacobi and get the falcon.

The harsh parts of the characters are revealed with the Fat Man willing to sell out Wilma, whom he claims to consider a son, to get the Falcon off of Sam Spade. And then there is O'Shannahey, a beautiful young lady who grabs Spade's heart, yet we know that Spade does not truly love this woman as we learn that he is having an affair with Archer's wife. O'Shannahey is not what we expect. At first she comes as an innocent woman who is looking for her sister but we find a web of lies and deceit surrounding her and the more we get entangled in the lies the more sinister O'Shannahey becomes.

Spade is not a hero either, rather he is an anti-hero. He his selfish and cold, ready to betray his partner for a woman, and ready to betray his lover for his reputation. He slaps around Wilma and Cairo, treating them like little children. Spade is an arrogant, self-centered person and would rather look after himself than others.

I think the ending of the Maltese Falcon is brilliant. I am one who looks more at the ending of a movie than the content because it is the ending that we are left with when we leave. The ending of the Maltese Falcon is not happy, nor is it sad. Rather we are just left knowing that life will go on.
Classic film noir - but more holes than a Swiss cheese.
Private "dick" Sam Spade loses his partner to murder and finds himself surrounded by dubious characters searching for a precious antique.

So much has been written about this film that it seems churlish and obvious to start repeating and paraphrasing. Certainly it delivers lightweight thrills, set pieces and sharp one-liners as well as any low budget film and is almost a template for the thousand laconic private-eye movies (serious and otherwise) that followed.

It also set Humphrey Bogart on the road to being the ultimate (film) private detective: A wonderful invention in that they can be both criminal and policeman as convenience dictates.

However, at the risk of seeming negative too soon, there is plenty of things wrong with this movie, most notably the one-dimensional back-of-a-cigarette-packet plot. Where is the suspense when pointing a gun at our hero makes no difference to his demeanour? Do we really believe that the villains will outwit Spade and actually carry off their quarry? Or that Spade will fall for the lame excuses and explanations given in the movie?

Bogart is one of those actors that tries not to gesture or even blink. Variety comes by way of talking in double time or wisecracking. It really reminds me of what Robert De Niro said about acting "people don't show emotions - they try to hide them." The death of his partner (one of the driving points of this movie) doesn't seem to upset him too much, his first thoughts are about removing his name from the door! However, despite his lack of height or conventional good looks, the camera loves him and that is all that matters. He is cooler than a snowman in a North Pole blizzard.

Lorre and Greenstreet are rolled in almost like a comedy double act, with all the menace of second-hand car salesmen (however many guns they pull out). We know that cheats don't prosper in this Warner Brothers film noir world, but they obviously haven't read the rules. They still seem to enjoy their moment of being "king of the castle" and chew the furniture to order, but these people are clearly not in our hero's league.

While highly enjoyable, the Maltese Falcon hardly takes cinema to new levels. If Bogart had not made this movie, but everything else had stayed the same, it would be a totally forgotten work - like the prior version of this same film.

Arm Bogie with a few one-liners, dress him in a dirty raincoat and plonk him on those cheap hardboard-and-smoke Warner Brothers sets and you have solid gold. You just can't go wrong. We will never see his like again...
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Another film I've wanted to see for ages! And it didn't disappoint. I will definitely be watching this again, as it was difficult to focus on the plot and pay attention to camera and lighting work at the same time. Both of which were really lovely. There's probably some debate about this being film noir, but I think it qualifies—the lighting was just great. I love dark photography so of course film noir is a favorite. The camera angles and some of the tracking shots were particularly nice.

I really love the characters in this. Although there is a "good guy" and a "bad guy" in the usual sense, all of the characters have their flaws. I especially like the scene between Brigid and Sam near the ending. Bogart was perfect for Spade, and his performance made the film.
The Maltese Falcon
This story surround a detective, Spade, who is trying to clear his name and uncover who is behind all these murders that seem to be caused by the lustful Maltese Falcon. This is a breakthrough role for Humphrey Bogart, who then gets the role in Casablanca, so it is fun to see him in this movie as well. He plays Spade well and really makes us believe he is this coldhearted and tough guy. The way the film was shot really gives us the over tone and mise-en-scene. The tone is very constant, most shots have low key lighting with lots of shadows to make the it dark and mysterious. There is also a lot tight frames, like scenes in Spades office, we are able to see how small the room is and the close quarters that Spade is sharing with dangerous men. By filming the shots so tight it induces a feeling of panic and anxiousness to the scenes. Some shots even include the ceilings of the rooms, which isn't very common, this also gives us the feeling of claustrophobia of these high powered and dangerous people gathered together. When the character Gutman is being shot the camera usually shoots him with a low angle, and we are looking up at him. It gives the effect of him looking larger and in power, making us the audience feel inferior, not to mention make his gut look even larger. (funny that his name is Gutman, coincidence..I think not!) Overall this movie was something different and had an interesting story line, reminding me a little of North by Northwest mostly because of the anxiety the movie made you feel.
The Maltese Falcon
This film was very well done. The main actor was fantastic. He was always what seemed like 5 steps ahead of everyone. Even when it looked like he was getting one pulled over on him, he would make a fool out of that person. This film was wonderfully done and had get characters that would balance and contrast each other. The main actor and his secretary had a funny little relationship where she was obviously in love with him and would do everything he asked of her and his character was intelligent and could explain away everything in a drop of a hat. The way the camera moved to capture the scenes was done well. It didn't move so fast that you were dizzy but when the cops and Spade were talking in the doorway it moved back and forth between the sides of the door to capture the person who was currently speaking. I liked how for certain parts and characters the camera would look up at them. It did that with the more criminal characters. The scene where Spade leaned down to almost kiss the girl and you see him see the man who was following him in the doorway in the building across the street the camera moved with his eye line so you could see what Spade was seeing. The camera work and characters were well done and it was an enjoyable film to watch and I definitely recommend watching this film.
loved this film
I have always been a big fan of movies like this and have watched this one a couple of times actually. I absolutely loved the casting of Sam Spade and his secretary OShaughnessy and they complimented each other magnificently throughout the film as Spade worked to find the prized possession. I think this is an American classic for a mystery film and really set the bar high for films after this that try to achieve the same thing in a film. While I found the film not as action packed as some may have wished it to be nowadays, the mystery and how it is unveiled is truly a masterpiece. I found it interesting how this was made after the book and can see how it must have been brilliantly written. Overall I would recommend this film to anyone and I have came back and loved it time and time again
One of the Most Entertaining Films of Its Kind
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 conflicting ethics.

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".
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