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THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
#23 on the AFI Top 100.
THE MALTESE FALCON was nominated for the Best Picture award.
With "The Maltese Falcon," Director, John Huston, delivered one of the best, and most imitated, detective films of all time.
"A guy without a conscience!"
"A dame without a heart!"
A story as explosive as his blazing automatics!"
Sam Spade quotes: "My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs. Spade didn't raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a district attorney, and an assistant district attorney, and a stenographer." "I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble. "
The basic story involves detective Sam Spade (Bogart), and various characters in pursuit of a priceless bird statuette, the "stuff that dreams are made of." This exciting yarn starts out with a private detective, Sam Spade and his partner, Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) being hired by a woman, Miss Bridget O'Shaunessey (Mary Astor), to follow a man, a tail job. When Sam's partner is murdered while following the man, Sam not only finds himself being hassled by the police, some of whom would love to arrest him for something, but he also soon discovers that his new client isn't who she says she is, and is involved in something having to do with a very valuable gold statue of a Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade soon is introduced to a variety of strange, rather sinister people, who all are after this golden prize, all willing to kill for it. Using his wits, his ability to put two and two together, and his experience with the criminal element, he tries to sort it all out, and find the killer of his partner as well. "When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something."
The gripping script was by Huston, adapting Dashiell
Hammett's novel. It offers a fascinating study of human greed,
where no one is who he or she claims to be, which adds to the
intriguing plot of the story, as Sam tries to find the truth in
this mass of confusion and lies. There are no perfect, squeaky
clean, good guys in this cynical master work. Though by the end
of the story, Sam Spade remains the hard-boiled hero, whose true
motives are the standard "a man's got to do what a man's
got to do."
Humphrey Bogart excels in portraying Sam Spade, a private detective who is gifted at what he does for a living, though not always a choir boy in his private life. He effectively created the model for the many private detective / police films that has come out of Hollywood since.
62 year old Sydney Greenstreet, who was a distinguished British stage actor for 40 years, was lured into his debut film performance by John Huston , giving a fine portrayal of the "loquacious, enigmatic villainous" Kasper Gutman, called "the Fat Man." He earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this performance.
Peter Lorre entertains the audience with another great performance portraying the slimy Joel Cairo. His ability to use facial expressions and his ability to use body language to help portray / show various feelings of his character, really adds to his performance.
Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre were two of the more accomplished character actors of the 40's. They were both to later appear with Bogart again, in another classic, CASABLANCA (1942), as well as becoming an odd duo in eight more films together, three of which are THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, THE VERDICT, and THREE STRANGERS. Audiences love the chemistry between Greenstreet and Lorre, as they tried of out scheme each other.
Character actor, Elisha Cook Jr, known for playing both sympathetic and vicious characters, gives his most remembered performance, portraying the Fat Man's psychotic hired gunman / body guard.
My favorite scene takes place between Greenstreet, Lore, and Bogart. As Lorre looks on with bug-eyed interest, Greenstreet tells the history and legends connected with the priceless Maltese Falcon. We soon realize that the Falcon, and of course food, are the only real passions the Fat Man has.
Inspired by Shakespeare, Bogie came up with the line "stuff that dreams are made of."
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