Monday, October 03, 2011

“I Won’t Play the Sap for You”

In addition to today being the 50th anniversary of The Dick Van Dyke Show’s debut, it’s the 70th anniversary of the date on which the best-known movie adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon (1930), had its New York City premiere. That version, of course, starred Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, and was directed by John Huston. It’s not only an incredibly popular picture, but has been named one of the greatest films of all time.

Rather than go on at length about the attractions of 1941’s The Maltese Falcon, I shall simply embed a brief clip from that motion picture. Below, Bogie, portraying San Francisco private eye Sam Spade, confronts his alternately seductive and scheming client, Ruth Wonderly/Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Astor), about her role in the shooting death of his business partner, Miles Archer. It’s a powerful scene, based closely on the book’s denouement, that loses none of its impact with repeat viewings.

Thank you, Mr. Hammett, for penning The Maltese Falcon, one of my favorite private-eye novels. And thank you, Mr. Bogart and Mr. Huston, for bringing that story so vividly to the big screen.

READ MORE:The Maltese Falcon,” by Tim Dirks (AMC Filmsite); “Ten of the Best Fat Men in Literature,” by John Mullan (The Guardian).


Craig said...

Much as I love this movie (and the book, of course) I have to say that Mary Astor always seemed horribly miscast as the femme fatale. She's more like a frightened schoolmarm than, say, Barbara Stanwyck or Rita Hayworth.

Winifred said...

I agree and her perm was terrible!

Have to say I always remember Peter Lorre's performance in this film, just great!

Interesting quote "...such stuff
as dreams are made on" Borrowed from Shakespeare's The Tempest and used again by Howard Rodman in one of the Harry O pilots.

You reminded me I need to read this book, just ordered it from the local library. Thanks for the reminder.

Robert Lincoln said...

Granted, she's outside the archetype of the typical femme fatale, but I think her persona is faithful to the role, and specifically to the character in print. Her strength isn't in being dominant, but in using her seeming weakness to play on Spade's emotions and instincts, all in the interest of the game she's playing under the table.

Anonymous said...

This has always been one of my favorites. What an amazing cast - Bogart, Astor (who, I would argue, WAS right for the part), Greenstreet, Lorre, Elisha Cook...amazing. And the dialogue, as I recall, was virtually straight from the book. Great show.