The Maltese Falcon

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(1941, directed by John Huston)

- inducted 2016 –

“Calling The Maltese Falcon a perfect movie is something of a double-edged sword, if one means to split hairs. Its leanness, precision, ceaseless forward motion, and quotability leave little room for the kind of artistic and dramatic risks that characterize swing-for-the-fences auteurist masterpieces, to say nothing of dramatic depth. On the other hand, perfect. Bogart is perfect. Mary Astor is perfect. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are perfect. Ward Bond and Barton McClain are perfect. Gladys George is perfect. John Huston's script of Dashiell Hammett's novel is perfect. Huston's mise-en-scene is arch, and deliberate, built around overtly stagy physical gestures—Elisha Cook (who, lest we forget, is also perfect) tipping his newspaper down to reveal his paranoid, seething face, Bogart punching his hand as he barks a laugh, Walter ‘the director's father’ Huston staggering in and dying in exactly the right place—because that's what this express train of a narrative needs.

The Maltese Falcon inaugurated the era of film noir, and its elusive object of desire embodied what future aspirants sought in working within the form: ‘the stuff that dreams are made of.’ Sam Spade, per Hammett, ‘has no original. He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would like to have been, and, in their cockier moments, thought they approached.’ That sounds about right.

“It's also probably the most rewatchable movie ever made. I already rewatched it once to write this thing, now just writing about it makes me want to go back and rewatch it again.”

~ Danny Bowes

Principal cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre, Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Sydney Greenstreet, Ward Bond, Jerome Cowan, Elisa Cook Jr., James Burke, Murray Alper, John Hamilton, with an uncredited appearance by Walter Huston
Screenplay by John Huston
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
Executive producer: Hal B. Wallis
Associate producer: Henry Blanke
Director of photography: Arthur Edeson
Art direction by Robert Haas
Gowns by Orry-Kelly
Film editing by Thomas Richards
Original music by Adolph Deutsch
Makeup by Perc Westmore, Frank McCoy (uncredited)
Sound by Oliver S. Garretson
Hair stylist Jean Udko (uncredited)

USA
Duration: 100 minutes
Languages: English
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono (RCA Sound System)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

A Warner Bros.-First National Picture
Released in USA by Warner Bros.
Premiered in New York City, New York, USA on 3 October 1941

Awards and honors:
- National Film Registry selection, 1989
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 13 May 2001
- Academy Awards (USA), 1941: Best Picture (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1941: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Sydney Greenstreet (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1941: Best Writing, Screenplay (nominated)