The Maltese Falcon
Directed and written by John Huston, from a book by Dashiell Hammett
USA, 1941, 101 minutes
Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade), Mary Astor (Brigid O'Shaughnessy), Gladys George (Iva Archer), Peter Lorre (Joel Cairo), Sydney Greenstreet (Kasper Gutman), Elisha Cook Jr. (Wilmer Cook)
"The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."
- Sam Spade to gunsel Wilmer
"You'll take a slap and you'll like it!"
- Spade to Joel Cairo
TCM aired a Peter Lorre tribute last night, and this A-list classic came on right after the excellent RKO B-noir The Stranger On the Third Floor. What hasn't been said about The Maltese Falcon? It is, quite simply a flawless cinematic experience. I've seen it a million times, but I sat there transfixed, unable to get up because it really is a perfect film, with great dialog and great characters (yes, yes, Peter Lorre was great in M and Mad Love and Arsenic and Old Lace, but for me this is his defining screen performance, one that created the Lorre character caricature he continued to call on as he carved out a quite successful career in Hollywood). I wanted to grab a snack, but couldn't. With the possible exception of Sidney Greenstreet's explanation of the history of the falcon "The Knights Templar paid tribute to Charles V, blah blah blah," there isn't a moment in the film that misses a beat. I could watch it over and over and over again. Sometime we forget what an "essential" classic really means. It means The Maltese Falcon. Believe the hype.