Where do you begin with such a movie? The Maltese Falcon is one of the definitive examples of film noir, the gritty crime and gangster pictures of the 40’s, and is still considered one of the best films ever made. In 1998, the American Film Institute rated it as the 23rd greatest film of all time, and in 2008, the 6th greatest mystery film of all time.
Do you begin with the fact that the movie is adapted from the the great Dasheill Hammett’s novel, or that it’s directed by one of the greatest directors of all time, John Huston? What about the cast? After all, you begin with lesser lights, like Peter Lorre and a young Elijah Cook, Jr., who would have a career into the 80’s. Then you add the wonderful stage actor (London and Broadway) Sidney Greenstreet and Mary Astor, and top it off with one of the greatest actors of all time, Humphrey Bogart.
Ah, Bogey. With that clipped delivery, that hoarse laugh, and that worn face, Bogart was born to play the hard-boiled gumshoe, Sam Spade. I’m not going to try to say a whole lot about the movie, as it is iconic. My attempt to praise it would be a futile exercise in gilding the lily. Instead, for the next couple of weeks, I’ll share a few things from the movie that make it just great.
I’ll leave you with this clip, Bogart and Elijah Cook. The snappy but terse dialogue, with lines like “People lose teeth talking like that” make the movie crackle.