The Maltese Falcon is one of the most renowned film Noir classics. The 1941 movie was John Huston’s directorial debut. The legendary film maker, who also wrote the screenplay for The Maltese Falcon, went on to make many more successful movies, such as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Asphalt Jungle, and The African Queen. When The Maltese Falcon hit theaters, both critics and audiences admired and loved the film. Even today, it’s regarded as one of the most influential classic movies.
In preparation for making The Maltese Falcon, Huston meticulously planned every scene down to the most minute detail. He adapted the screenplay from Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boil detective novel of the same name. Humphrey Bogart was not the first choice for the role of the main character of Detective Sam Spade, but, after watching the film, it’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. Mary Astor performs the role as the femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and character actor, Peter Lorre plays the part of Joel Cairo.
The story is about Detective Sam Spade, who’s life suddenly takes a downward spiral when the alluring, but dangerous Brigid O’Shaughnessy walks into his office asking for his help. Spade’s partner is murdered and the police become suspicious of Spade. In order to clear his name, Spade becomes involved in a plot to recover an extremely valuable statue referred to as the Maltese Falcon. The story behind this relic is that the Knights Templar honored King Charles V of Spain with this bejeweled bird. Detective Spade becomes entangled with Joel Cairo and “The Fat Man” (performed by Sydney Greenstreet). Everyone wants to get their hands on the Maltese Falcon. While Spade tries to stay a step ahead of his enemies, his biggest vulnerability is his feelings for Brigid. In order for Spade to save his reputation and his life, he must outsmart The Fat Man and get to the truth of Brigid’s involvement with the bird and the murder of his partner.
The Maltese Falcon is well written, performed, and directed, but when compared to other classic films it’s over rated. The story is like many other film Noirs and hard-boiled detective movies. The story doesn’t illuminate a theme that is profound or relevant to all of mankind. It’s simply a good detective movie that starred Humphrey Bogart and many wonderful character actors. People who absolutely enjoy watching classic movies and are fans of Bogart love The Maltese Falcon. However, for most of the people out there who aren’t as familiar with older films they may not appreciate this film as much. There are so many other classic films out there that are more memorable and enjoyable to watch, but because of the cast, director and writer The Maltese Falcon will remain a symbol of film Noir.