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The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon is a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett which was made into a quintessential film noir.

Film versions

It was filmed twice under the name The Maltese Falcon, in 1931 and 1941. The story also inspired the 1936 film Satan Met a Lady, directed by William Dieterle[?] and starring Bette Davis and Warren William[?], as well as many spoofs and sequels.

The 1931 film was directed by Roy Del Ruth[?], and starred Ricardo Cortez[?] as private detective Sam Spade[?].

The 1941 film is much more famous. It was directed by John Huston in his first directorial role - he also wrote the screenplay - and stars Humphrey Bogart as the detective, Mary Astor[?] as Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the femme fatale[?] who hires him, Sydney Greenstreet in his exceptional film debut as the extraordinary Kasper Gutman, and Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo. Also in the film are Barton MacLane[?] and Ward Bond[?] as policemen, Lee Patrick[?] as Spade's long-suffering secretary and Gladys George confusing things as the wife of Spade's partner.

The 1941 version of the film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Plot Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

Private eye Sam Spade and his partner are approached by O'Shaughnessy to follow a man. During the tail Spade's partner is murdered and Spade becomes embroiled with O'Shaughnessy, Cairo and Gutman - three ruthless characters seeking the lost "Maltese Falcon", a statuette of a bird, currently black but believed to be solid gold and jewelled beneath this veneer.

The Huston version, exemplifies the noir aesthetic both thematically and visually. At the end of the film the hero Sam Spade (Bogart) realizes that O'Shaughnessy, who hired him and with whom he has fallen in love, is responsible for his partner's death. He must make the moral decision between turning her in, or running away with her. Typically for the Noir period film the hero eventually makes the moral decision. Visually, as she is being led away, the woman enters an elevator, and the grate closing in front of her face symbolizes her jailing. In the novel Spade also gives up O'Shaughnessy, but in a more hard-boiled manner - it is a choice between which of them will be jailed for murder and Spade is aware they will hang him but not O'Shaughnessy.

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