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"The Maltese Falcon" 1941 Movie

Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and the Maltese Falcon statue in "The Maltese Falcon" [1941] movie           

synopsis & history

author Dashiell Hammett

the movie

later works


           When a client hires a San Francisco private detective agency to trail a man, supposedly to find her sister, partner Miles Archer takes the assignment. That evening, partner Sam Spade learns that Archer has been killed; arriving at the murder scene, he is told that the man Archer was following has also been killed, and that the police suspect Spade, believing that Archer's wife was Spade's motive. Spade then finds that the client has checked out of her hotel and disappeared. Next morning, the woman, now calling herself Brigid O'Shaughnessy, asks Spade to investigate the two murders. Another new client, Joel Cairo, asks Spade to track down a figure of a black bird for a retainer of $5,000, then pulls a gun and searches Spade's office for the object. Spade later meets with Brigid, Cairo shows up, Brigid tells Cairo that 'the Fat Man' is in town, and Cairo becomes agitated.
           Next morning, Spade goes to Cairo's hotel and asks a henchman named Wilmer to get him a meeting with the Fat Man; Spade meets with Wilmer's boss, named Casper Gutman, but Spade leaves in anger when Gutman gives him a runaround. Later, Wilmer takes Spade at gunpoint to meet with Gutman; Spade takes away Wilmer's gun, but meets with Gutman anyway. Gutman tells the long history of the Maltese Falcon; the bird was most recently in the possession of a Russian general in Istanbul, and Gutman sent men to get it from him; they got it, but it was never delivered to Gutman. Gutman offers Spade $25,000 plus a fourth-interest to find the statue, but Spade passes out (from a spiked drink). Wilmer kicks Spade in the face to avenge his humiliation, then Cairo appears from the next room and Gutman, Wilmer & Cairo leave the hotel.
           Spade revives and searches the suite, finding a newspaper with the arrival time of a freighter circled. He hurries to the dock and finds the freighter ablaze. Returning to his office, a haggard sailor bursts in and hands him a package and then dies; the man's wallet reveals his identity as the captain of the burning freighter. The package contains a black statue of a bird, about a foot high and extremely heavy. Spade's secretary answers the telephone and hears Brigid give an address and then scream, then the line goes dead. Spade drops the bird off at a bus terminal baggage room, then hurries to the address, which is a vacant lot.
           Back at the office, Spade finds Brigid hiding in a doorway; he takes her to his office, where the three men pull guns on him. Gutman gives Spade $10,000 for the bird, but Spade adds a demand of his own: a fall guy for the murders of Archer, of Brigid's partner, and of the freighter captain, so that Spade can get the police off his back. Gutman and Cairo agree, then knock Wilmer out in a struggle; Spade pumps the crooks for more details so that he can deliver a convincing story to the cops, along with Wilmer.
           As dawn arrives, Spade calls his secretary, who brings them the Maltese Falcon bundle. Gutman declares it to be a fake, then decides to set off for Istanbul for another try; he pulls a gun and takes back the money he gave Spade (except for $1,000 'expense money'), then offers Spade a partnership in their quest; Spade declines, and the two crooks leave.
           Spade calls the cops and tells them where to pick up Gutman and Cairo, then that he has solved the three murders. Spade confronts Brigid, accusing her of killing Archer to implicate her unwanted partner; she does not believe that Spade will turn her in, but when the cops arrive, he does indeed, along with the bird, the $1,000, and Wilmer.

History of The Films
           Dashiell Hammett's novel "The Maltese Falcon" was serialized in five parts in Black Mask Magazine in 1929-30 and then published by Knopf on 14 February 1930. The Warner Bros. film adaptation of 1931 (aka "Dangerous Female") was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred Ricardo Cortez & Bebe Daniels. Warner Bros. remade the film in 1936 as "Satan Met A Lady", directed by William Dieterle and starring Bette Davis & Warren William; the script by Brown Holmes added comedy touches and changed names – detective Shane chases after the 'Horn of Roland' – but is recognizable as the basic "Maltese Falcon" plot.
           The 1941 version of "The Maltese Falcon" is considered a classic. Director Howard Hawks knew that screenwriter John Huston wanted to direct, and suggested that Huston adapt "The Maltese Falcon" which was already owned by Warner Brothers; Hawks suggested that Huston 'film the book'. Before going on a vacation, Huston gave his secretary a copy of the book and told her to type it up in screenplay form; studio chief Jack L. Warner read the script and gave it a green light even before John Huston had a chance to read it.
           Producer Hal Wallis offered the part of Spade to actor George Raft, who declined and instead made "Manpower" with Raoul Walsh, co-starring Edward G. Robinson & Marlene Dietrich. Humphrey Bogart's career was starting to soar after "High Sierra" [January 1941] and he was delighted to be offered the part of Sam Spade; Huston was grateful for Bogart's quick acceptance. Producer Wallis asked Huston to test 61-year-old stage actor Sydney Greenstreet, who had never acted in films before; Greenstreet received an Oscar nomination for his performance. Huston's detailed script allowed the actors to rehearse thoroughly, and allowed filming in sequence.
           The 1941 film was a critical and box office success. Warner Bros. planned to make a sequel, to be entitled "The Further Adventures of The Maltese Falcon", but Huston and the principle actors were busy on other projects, so nothing happened. John Huston did write a sequel script, entitled "Three Strangers" featuring the Sam Spade character. But Dashiell Hammett informed Warner Bros. that they had purchased only rights to the novel, that he owned the rights to the characters. Huston's script was revised by Howard Koch and filmed by Jean Negulesco; that movie, starring Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sydney Greenstreet & Peter Lorre, was released in January 1946.

author Dashiell Hammett [1894-61]

BlackHat Mystery Bookstore's Dashiell Hammett [1894-1961] Pages
Dashiell Hammett entry at Wikipedia
Dashiell Hammett credits [1930-2002] at Internet Movie Database
book entry at Wikipedia

Maltese Falcon novel by Dashiell Hammett  cover of Maltese Falcon novel 1930 hardcover edition  "The Maltese Falcon" [serialized 1929-30, book 1930]
by Dashiell Hammett

Orion 'Read A Great Movie' 7½x5 pb [3/2005] out of print/used
Vintage 8x5 pb [8/92] for $9.07
Vintage 9¾x6 pb [4/72] out of print/many used
Mystery Masters audio CD [2/2004] for $24.97
Cassette Works audio [10/85] for $11.66
Isis Audio Books [1/96] for $50.71
Blackstone Audio dramatization UNABR audio CD [11/2008] for $17.05

"The  Maltese  Falcon"
[Warner Bros. Oct 1941]

A San Francisco private eye investigating the murder of his partner finds that the beautiful client is lying, and
several strange characters keep pumping him for information on the 'maltese falcon', an object worth killing for.

Written & directed by John Huston, based on Hammett's novel; starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet,
Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr., Lee Patrick, Gladys George & Jerome Cowan; Oscar noms for Best Picture, Best Script &
Best Supporting Actor (SG); listed on National Film Registry (1989)

movie entry at Wikipedia
film credits at Internet Movie Database

Warner Home Video b&w Blu-ray [10/2010] for $17.49

Warner Home Video b&w DVD set [10/2006] 3 disks for $13.99
the 3-disk DVD set includes the 1941, 1936 & 1931 feature films, plus bonus items including trailers, commentary, 3 radio broadcasts, documentary
"The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird" [2006], documentary featurette "Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart" [1997], and more

Warner b&w DVD [2/2000] for $16.99
M.G.M. Home Video b&w VHS [12/93] for $3.76 [sic]
Warner Special Edition b&w VHS [6/2001] out of prodn/used
Warner b&w VHS [5/97] out of prodn/used

John Huston's Maltese Falcon book edited by Richard J. Anobile  "John Huston's The Maltese Falcon" [1974]
Edited by Richard J. Anobile

Universe mass pb [1974] out of print/scarce
Universe hardcover [1974] out of print/used
Universe hardcover [1974] out of print/scarce

"Academy Award Theater" radio program [1946]
24 min. 20 sec. broadcast: choose either stream or download

"The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird" 32-minute documentary [Warner Oct 2006]
Co-produced & directed by Gary Leva; available on the 3-disk DVD set above; full credits at IMDb

Maltese Falcon 1941 movie poster directed by John Huston - white
two guns poster
27"x40" poster
from Amazon for $19.99

11"x17" poster
from Amazon for $14.99
Maltese Falcon 1941 movie poster directed by John Huston
red / dress poster
27"x40" poster
from Amazon for $19.99
Maltese Falcon 1941 movie poster directed by John Huston - half-sheet
half-sheet poster
14"x36" poster
from Amazon for $19.99
Maltese Falcon 1941 French movie poster 'Le Faucon Maltais'
'Le Faucon Maltais'

retail source not found

official Maltese Falcon replica 1941 prop/sculpture/statue
almost 12" tall, weighs 8 pounds, includes authentic wrappings for $195 plus s/h from Amazon
direct from manufacturer for $99 plus s/h {wrapping is $30 more}

Later  Works

The Black Bird movie starring George Segal  "The Black Bird" [Rastar/Columbia Dec 1975]
Hapless Sam Spade, Jr. inherits his father's detective agency, and receives several offers for a 'useless' black bird statue in the office. Several people are murdered, and he is then pressured by a Russian femme fatale, a bald dwarf, and various thugs to hand over the statue • Co-written & directed by David Giler; co-produced by & starring George Segal; also starring Stéphane Audran, Lionel Stander, Lee Patrick, Elisha Cook Jr., Felix Silla & Signe Hasso
Sony color VHS [8/96] out of prodn/used
full credits from IMDb
novelization [1975] by Alexander Edwards
Warner Books movie tie-in mass pb [1975] out of print/used

Murder By Death murder mystery spoof movie by Neil Simon  "Murder By Death" [Rastar/Columbia June 1976]
Detective spoof written by playwright Neil Simon: Five famous literary detectives and their sidekicks are invited by an eccentric millionaire for dinner and a 'murder at midnight' performance; but before midnight, the butler is found dead, and then other murders follow. Peter Falk portrays the Sam Spade spoof 'Sam Diamond'; DVD extras include trailers & Neil Simon interview • Co-produced by Ray Stark; directed by Robert Moore; starring Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Peter Sellers & Richard Narita; W.G.A. nom for Best Original Script
Sony widescreen color DVD [12/2001] for $8.99
Sony color VHS [6/94] out of prodn/many used
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

Cheap Detective murder mystery spoof movie by Neil Simon  "The Cheap Detective" [Rastar/Columbia June 1978]
Playwright Neil Simon's spoof of Bogart's classic films, especially "Maltese Falcon" & "Casablanca"
Co-produced by Ray Stark; directed by Robert Moore; starring Peter Falk, Ann-Margret, Eileen Brennan, Sid Caesar, Stockard Channing, James Coco, Dom DeLuise, Louise Fletcher, John Houseman, Madeline Kahn, Fernando Lamas, Marsha Mason, Phil Silvers, Abe Vigoda, Paul Williams, Nicol Williamson, James Cromwell & Scatman Crothers
Sony color DVD [11/2001] for $8.99
Sony color VHS [6/94] out of prodn/used
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
Chasing Sam Spade  
"Chasing Sam Spade" [2002] by Brian Lawson
Detective 'Crazy Charlie' Boyle is murdered while investigating a 70-year-old crime buried in "The Maltese Falcon"; now Charlie's son must solve both crimes while surviving San Francisco's fog-bound streets.
Booklocker 8½x5 pb [2/2002] for $14.95
Dictionary of Literary Biography / Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon  "Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon: A Documentary Volume" [2003]
Edited by Richard Layman, with George Parker Anderson

Gale Group 11¼x8¼ hardcover [8/2003] for $225.00 [!]
Discovering The Maltese Falcon & Sam Spade  "Discovering The Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade: The Evolution of Dashiell Hammett's Masterpiece, Including John Huston's Movie With Humphrey Bogart" [2005]
Edited by Richard Layman

Vince Emery Prodns 10x7 pb [9/2005] for $13.57
Spade & Archer prequel novel by Joe Gores  "Spade & Archer: The Prequel To Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon" [2009]
by Joe Gores

Sam Spade opens a detective agency in San Francisco, with many cases over seven years, some involving murder & mayhem. Then he agrees to take on a partner, the 'pal' who stole Sam's girl when Sam was away during The Great War.
Knopf 8½x6 hardcover [2/2009] for $16.32

L i n k s
BlackHat Mystery Bookstore's Dashiell Hammett [1894-1961] Pages
book entry at Wikipedia
1931 movie entry at Wikipedia
1936 movie entry at Wikipedia
1941 movie entry at Wikipedia
Magic Lantern's Humphrey Bogart [1899-1957] Page
Magic Lantern's John Huston [1906-87] Page

"Sam Spade" radio program [1946-51]

See also Magic Lantern Video & Book Store's
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