Mary Aster and Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon. Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Police detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) gets mixed up in murder and the search for a mysterious bird worth millions.
The Maltese Falcon is the quintessential film noir. Based on the exploits of Dashiell Hammett’s famed detective Sam Spade, the film twists and turns in ways you’ll never expect. This is one of two legendary gumshoes Bogart would play on-screen – he also starred as Philip Marlowe in the adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep (1946). As Spade, Bogart deals with a duplicitous dame, played by the beautiful Mary Astor, and two heavies played by the likes of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, all of whom are in search of “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Like all good noirs, the actual MacGuffin is unimportant. What’s important is the characters and the lengths they go to get what they want.
Directed by John Huston, The Maltese Falcon came to personify the film noir genre and, in many ways, is the best film to start walking down shadowy noir roads. It’s accessible – not nearly as confusing as The Big Sleep – with unforgettable characters. After watching The Maltese Falcon be sure to check out the aforementioned Big Sleep and Out of the Past (1947).
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