#157 The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, is one of the first true Hollywood Noir films. Appearing on the scene at the same time as Citizen Kane, there is no mistaking the true amazing “arrival not of an enfant terrible, but of a consummate professional” writer and director in John Huston (Schneider). Transcribing the novel’s dialogue word for word and scene for scene (which may suggest that Hammett is actually the mastermind behind this amazing film), there is no question that it is Lorre, Bogart, and Astor that carry this film. What is most amazing about this film is that the crime and inevitable love  story end up resolving in a manner quite different than what is expected, bringing shock, humor, murder, adventure, and some genius double-crossing to a head at the end of its beautifully shot 101 minutes. A truly enjoyable classic, this remake (yes, it is in fact already the second version of the same picture, even in 1941) is a “cornerstone of film noir” that can’t be missed.



“A story as explosive as his blazing automatics!”

This  1941 film is a classic who-done-it  that starts as all movies of this thread must, with a gorgeous and helpless damsel in distress.   The rest of the story unfolds at a fast pace.  This movie is brilliantly acted by Bogart, Lorre,  and Astor who effortlessly volley back and forth classic one-liners and great playful dialogue.  I have never read the book, but the movie (this is the third remake!)  appears to have done it justice.  This movie doesn’t require much deep thought or critical analysis by the viewer but offers up some classic Hollywood fun with a genre of characters we’re familiar with and a great mystery.  Even I couldn’t have guessed the ending of this one.


The Maltese Falcon is one of the most memorable Hollywood crime films. Written and Directed by John Huston, based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel of the same name, we get Bogey, Lorrie, Astor, Wilmer, and George together in a beautifully cut mystery of murder, theft, double-crossing, masterminding conspiracies,chases, and the dark, dirty streets. There are many films that we think of when we think Hollywood Noir, but The Maltese Falcon is one of the forefathers of the genre.

I read this book in my youth but actually never saw the film. It was exactly what I feel like I signed up for. While I prefer Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep in terms of the genre and style, there is no doubt that this film delivers a solid, gritty crime drama that seems to have all aspects of the archetypal trope. The dialogue is snappy, there is violence, humor, and murder, and the actors work beautifully as an ensemble.

The Maltese Falcon is pure Hollywood Popcorn fun. This isn’t the best movie in the world, but it shows some of the greats performing at their peak in Hammett’s tight storytelling, and it is guaranteed classic fun for a night in on the couch.

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