Actors Bogart, Lorre, Astor and Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon (1941)  Astor's elevator ride down with police at the end of The Maltese Falcon symbolic of a final trip to hell

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The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon is a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett, made into a quintessential film noir movie. more...

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Film versions

It was filmed twice under the name The Maltese Falcon in 1931 and 1941. The story also inspired the 1936 film Satan Met a Lady, directed by William Dieterle and starring Bette Davis and Warren William, as well as many spoofs and sequels. The 1941 version is the most famous, often considered a classic Hollywood film.

1931 Film

The 1931 film was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred Ricardo Cortez as private detective Sam Spade. Other stars in the film were Bebe Daniels, Thelma Todd, Dudley Digges, Otto Mathieson, and Una Merkel. The screenplay was adapted from the Dashiell Hammett novel by Maude Fulton Brown Holmes. It was produced and released by Warner Brothers.

While the plot is much the same as the later movie version, the tenor is lighter, and there is rather extensive use of sexually suggestive situations in this pre-Hays Code film, containing a risqué scene of Bebe Daniels apparently nude in a bathtub.

In 1936, Warner Brothers attempted to re-release the film, but was denied approval by the Production Code Office due to the film's "lewd" content. For decades, unedited copies could not be legally shown in the United States.

The 1931 Maltese Falcon has also been released under the alternative title Dangerous Female (Femme Fatale).

1941 Film

The 1941 film was directed by John Huston in his first directorial role - he also wrote the screenplay - and stars Humphrey Bogart as the detective, Mary Astor (in place of Geraldine Fitzgerald whose clashes with the studio cost her the role) as Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the femme fatale and ultimate villainess, who hires him, Sydney Greenstreet in his exceptional film debut as the extraordinary Kasper Gutman, and Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo.

This film was Humphrey Bogart's first role in a movie outside the studio system he had worked under previously. The role of Sam Spade was, in fact, not offered first to Bogart, but rather to George Raft who turned it down because he thought it, "was not an important picture." Bogart's role became the character archetype for a private detective in the Film Noir genre providing him near instant acclaim for the role.

Also in the film are Barton MacLane and Ward Bond as policemen, Lee Patrick as Spade's long-suffering secretary, and Gladys George's confusing things as the wife of Spade's partner.

The 1941 version of the film (which was obviously censored of certain sexual dialogue and motifs that appeared in the original "Pre-Code" movie version) has, nonetheless, been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. The quote, "The stuff that dreams are made of," was listed as #14 on the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, a list of top movie quotes. Released by Warner Bros. 100 minutes in length.


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