There were two motion picture versions of Hammett's novel in 1931 and 1941, or maybe that should be three? This is a look at these features, but first the actual source material.
Above Una Merkel as "Effie Perline" and Ricardo Cortez as "Sam Spade" in the 1931 film version.
Below Humphrey Bogart as "Sam Spade", Peter Lorre as "Joel Cario", Mary Astor as "Brigid O'Shaughnessy" and Sidney Greenstreet as "Kaspar Gutman" in the 1941 film version.
SAMUEL DASHIELL HAMMETT
Detective Fiction novelist Raymond Chandler, the creator of "Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep", described Hammett in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder" for "Atlantic Monthly" in December 1944:
Hammett was the ace performer... He is said to have lacked heart; yet the story he himself thought the most of, The Glass Key, is the record of a man's devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.Dashiell Hammett besides creating "Sam Spade" is best remembered for creating the husband and wife team of "Nick and Nora Charles" and their dog "Asta" in "The Thin Man". Although the novel spawned six motion pictures starring William Powell and Myrna Loy and a 1957 through 1959 television series starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk. Hammett only wrote the one novel published in 1934.
Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born on May 27, 1894 in St. Mary's County, Maryland and baptized a Catholic. As his political views later in life would become Communist. The religion of his youth, becomes a contradiction of values.
He left school at 13 and bounced around through many jobs and eventually became a Pinkerton Detective. Hammett worked for the Detective Agency from 1915 through the start of 1922. It would be his cases and others he heard about that Sam Hammett would turn into his fiction.
Hammett took a break from the Pinkerton Agency and listed in the Army during 1918 and was assigned to the Ambulance Service for that final year of World War One. Two events resulted from his patriotic action. First he developed the Spanish Flu which from the first documented pandemic effecting the entire world. Later Sam was diagnosed with Tuberculous and while in the hospital his nurse was Josephine Dolan, The two would be married after Dashiell Hammett returned to Pinkerton's in 1921. They would be married until their divorce in 1937 and had two children.
Starting in 1931 Sam was having an affair with playwright Lillian Hellman, her plays included "Watch On the Rhine", "The Children's Hour" and her semi-autobiographical "The Little Foxes". Each would be turned into major motion pictures during the 1940's and "The Little Foxes" led to a Best Actress nomination for Bette Davis. Hellman wrote all three screenplays adapted from her work.
Above Lillian Hellman in 1935
Lillian would remain Sam's domestic partner through his death thirty years later on January 10, 1961.
Although Dashiell Hammett wrote 55 short stories that were published between 1922 and 1961. The above five titles are his only novels and the works Hammett is best known for writing. They include , left to right, the already mentioned "The Thin Man" in 1934, "The Glass Key" in 1931, "The Maltese Falcon" in 1930, "Red Harvest" in 1929 and "The Dain Curse" also in 1929.
During the 1930's Sam Hammett was a strong anti-Fascist. Like many American's at the time he joined the "Communist Party USA (CPUSA)". The "CPUSA"was the strongest group against the rise of Adolph Hitler in the United States at the time and ideology really wasn't considered by many of the Americans who joined .
My reader must understand that there were pro-Nazi demonstrations by the "German American Bund, also during this period that angered many Americans. The following photo was of a parade the "Bund" put together in New York City on October 30, 1939. That date was only 59 days after Hitler invaded Germany on September 1, 1939 and World War 2 began.
Here's another photo from March 1936 of the "German American Bund" in Buffalo, New York.
In 1941 Dashiell Hammett became the President of "League of American Writers". This group of American Journalists, Authors, Playwrights and even Critics was organized by the "CPUSA". However, things changed for Hammett on December 7, 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
In 1942 Hammett was able to "Pull Strings" to enlist in the United States Army. The points against his enlistment started with being a Disabled World War One Veteran. Then there was his Tuberculous and need we not forget being a Communist. However, the last was argumentative with Russia as our ally.
What really got Sergeant Dashiell Hammett sent to the Aleutian Islands between Alaska and Russia had been his name and not because he was a known detective fiction writer. When he was in the Army, during World War One, his enlistment was under the name Samuel D. Hammett. His World War Two enlistment was under the now known name of Dashiell Hammett. This had caused confusion leading the United States Army to believe he was two different people and Sam wasn't going to argue the point.
In 1946 "The Civil Rights Congress (CRC)" was formed. The "CRC" united several American Communist groups under one banner and set up a fund to bail out defendants in Civil Rights cases. The decision to use the fund was decided upon by a three person Executive Panel. Dashiell Hammett was one of the three, a Labor activist named Robert "Bob" Williams Dunn was another and the third was multi-millionaire Frederick Vanderbilt Field. Who was the great-great-grandson of Railroad Tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Problems for Dashiell Hammett began on April 3, 1947 when the United States Attorney General, following the orders of President Harry Truman, identified the "CRC" as a Communist Front Group. World War Two officially had ended when the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945 and Communist Russia was no longer our ally. The "House Committee on Un-American Activities" went into full swing and the "Black Listings" began.
On July 9, 1951 the activities of the "CRC" brought Samuel Dashiell Hammett before United States Judge Sylvester Ryan to testify on his Communist activities and "Name Names". Hammett refused to provide the information requested by Judge Ryan. Especially giving them a list of all people either working on the "CRC fund, or who had received assistance from that fund. As a result he served time in a Federal Penitentiary in West Virginia. None of which had any effect on his book sales and the popularity of the motion pictures associated with the author.
On March 26, 1953 Dashiell Hammett was called before the "House Committee on Un-American Activities" itself. He was asked the same questions and gave the same refusal, but no action against him was ever taken. Below Hammett before the House Committee and his facial expression tells all.
Diagnosed with lung cancer in November 1965. On January 10, 1966 Samuel Dashiell Hammett passed away at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. After all the controversy over his life the author was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
THE MALTESE FALCON--THE NOVEL--AN OVERVIEW
Above the cover of the first edition of "The Maltese Falcon".
Although many of Dashiell Hammett's characters were based upon people he actually met. In the introduction to the first edition he wrote:
Spade 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 approachedBelow a picture of the Apartment House Hammett was living at when he wrote the novel at 891 Post Street , San Francisco, California.
On Mark Coggins' website he wrote about visiting 891 Post and the following quote comes from it:
Hammett lived in the building during the period he wrote his first three novels and he put Spade in the same building in The Maltese Falcon. With a close reading of the Falcon text, and a comparison of the other apartments in the building, Hammett scholars have determined that #401 is the most likely to be Spade’s and Hammett’s, although there are no records of the particular apartment in which Hammett lived.
The following is the dedication plague on the building:
The novel was originally published in 1929 as a serial in "Black Mask Magazine" and then combined into a novel form for publication the following year. "The National Endowment for the Arts" placed it on their "Big Read List" and explained the reaction on their website by stating:
Some people were surprised when The Maltese Falcon, a detective novel, appeared on The Big Read list. Yes, it is a detective novel—one of the best ever written. It’s also a brilliant literary work, as well as a thriller, a love story, and a dark, dry comedy. The only criticism one could offer Hammett’s private-eye classic is that it is so much fun to read, it might be hard the first time through to realize how deeply observed and morally serious it is.https://www.arts.gov/partnerships/nea-big-read/the-maltese-falcon
The article also mentions:
Set in San Francisco, the story takes place over a six-day period, beginning Wednesday, December 5, and ending Monday morning, December 10, 1928. A tough, independent detective, Samuel Spade is hired by the beautiful and mysterious "Miss Wonderly," who walks into his office pleading desperately for help finding her sister. This bogus job gets Spade's partner, Miles Archer, and a thug named Thursby killed that same night. Though he disliked Archer, Spade's personal moral code dictates that "when a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it."It continues with a vivid description of what Samuel Dashiell Hammett's words mean asking the questions he poses to his reader:
Who murdered Spade's partner? Where is the Maltese falcon? Is Brigid O'Shaughnessy as guileless as she claims? Will Spade risk himself to save her? Among many other things, The Maltese Falcon is about what it's like to want something—a fortune, a lover, or even respect—so bad that you would kill for it, give up a chance at happiness to get it, until finally the chase itself means more to you than what you're chasing."The Encyclopedia Britannica" website wrote of the novel's ending:
The concluding chapter, in which Spade explains his uncorrupt, even if sometimes accommodating moral code, is among the most influential pieces of writing in American crime fiction, and antiheroes in the Spade mold came to dominate subsequent hard-boiled mysteries.https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Maltese-Falcon-novel-by-Hammett
After reading the novel and reaching the conclusion described by the "Encyclopedia Britannica" and you will never see,oir read the words
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
However, there are three characters in the novel important to the story. Two you never see, or hear about in the movies and the third underdeveloped. In the filmed versions the sea captain "Jacobi" is mentioned in passing as the person who smuggled the "Falcon" in to the United States. While Dashiell Hammett had him much more developed with a direct connection to the "Falcon". Which is the reason the "Wilmer Cook" actually murders "Captain Jacobi".
The other two Hammett characters never seen on screen are "Casper Gutman" daughter "Rhea" and the Russian "Kemidov". Who steals the real "Maltese Falcon" and substituted it with the fake.
THE HISTORY OF THE MALTESE FALCON?
Did the "Knights Templar's" send gifts to King Charles V of Spain? Such as a Jewel encrusted Falcon in 1539?
To begin with Charles was not only the King of Spain, but "The Holy Roman Emperor". As such receiving spoils from wars and warrior groups was common place. Below Charles V:
In the novel the "Falcon" was alleged to have been a gift to Charles by the 16th Century "Knights of Malta". The "Falcon", if real, would have been actually sent to the "Holy Roman Emperor" not by the "Templar's", but by the "Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem".aka: "Hospitallers" located on the Island of Malta.
Historical inaccuracy appears in the novel and passes on to the motion pictures concerning the "Maltese Falcon's" ancestry. As in reality during 1539 the "Hospitallers" were the one's receiving gifts to keep their charitable work going. Also at that time in England, because they were Catholic. King Henry VIII was driving the "Hositallers" out of the country causing a loss of revenue to the "Knights of Malta".
THE MOTION PICTURES
The First Version Released June 13, 1931
The 1931 version of "The Maltese Falcon" was actually the third motion picture based upon Hammett's stories. The first film was "Roadhouse Nights" released in 1930. The picture was based upon "Red Harvest" and starred "Torch Singer" Helen Morgan and Charles Ruggles. The second motion picture was "City Streets" released April 18, 1931 based upon a Hammett short story. The film starred Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney and Paul Lukas. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian who followed this picture up with the 1931 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" starring Best Actor Oscar Winner Frederick March.
The overlooked 1931 version of "The Maltese Falcon", later released to American television under the title "Dangerous Female", is a far better picture than its reputation, Which in my opinion is caused by comparisons to the 1941 John Huston feature film and no other reason. This is also a pre-code motion picture and the sexual aspects of Hammett's novel are retained.
Let me introduce my readers to the actors playing, what I consider, the six main film roles:
"Samuel 'Sam' Spade" was portrayed by Ricardo Cortez and as the above poster indicates was not the leading actor. Cortez was actually Jacob Krantz a Jewish actor from New York. Highlights of his 100 film career include a mixture of comedy and drama. he was in a 1930 musical western "Montana Moon" starring Joan Crawford. Three years after making "The Maltese Falcon". Ricardo Cortez was seen in "The Big Shakedown" starring Charles Farrell and second billed Bette Davis. Also in 1934 he was featured in "Wonder Bar" starring Al Jolson and Dolores del Rio. In 1936 Cortez became the second actor to portray Erle Stanley Gardner's "Perry Mason" on the motion picture screen. The actor turned to director from 1938 through 1940 for 20th Century Fox.
"Ruth Wonderly" was portrayed by the film's star "Bebe Daniels". The character is never referred to as "Brigid O'Shaughnessy", but keeps the alias of "Ruth Wonderly" throughout the entire film. Bebe Daniels was actually Phyllis Virginia Daniels who started her career as a "Child Actress" in silent films playing "Dorothy Gale" in a 1910 short version of "The Wizard of Oz". Over her film career Daniels was in 19 silent shorts, 53 full length silent features, 24 sound films including the 1929 musical by Florenz Ziegfeld's "Rio Rita" and the classic 1933 Busby Berkeley musical "42nd Street".
Bebe and her husband actor Ben Lyons moved to England and were heard on a BBC radio series from 1956 into 1960 entitled "Life With the Lyons". President Harry Truman awarded the actress "The Medal of Freedom" for her work during World War 2.
"Casper Gutman" was portrayed by Didley Diggers. Diggers was an Irish film and stage actor. He appeared on Broadway in the original 1921 production of Ferenc Molnar's "Lilliom" as the title characters criminal friend "Ficuir", if my reader is unfamiliar with that title. 24 years later Rodgers and Hammerstein turned that Broadway Play into their musical "Carousel". The actor was seen in 1933 as the "Chief Detective" in James Whale's classic version of H.G. Wells' "The Invisible Man". In 1935 he was one of the crew in "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable. Dudley Diggers had fourth billing as the Chinese character of "Mr. Wu" in "The General Died At Dawn". That 1936 motion picture starred Gary Cooper and Madeleine.
It should be noted that the character's first name is spelled with a "C" as in the novel, but in the 1941 film it is spelled with a "K".
"Effie Perine" was portrayed by Una Merkel. Merkel was born in Kentucky and entered film acting in 1923 and was a very versatile actress. She played Ann Rutledge in D.W. Griffith's 1930 "Abraham Lincoln" and also appeared in the 1933 musical "42nd Street". Merkel's comedy timing was showcased as "Lilly Belle" in the Marlene Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart 1939 western/comedy "Destry Rides Again". There is a classic "Cat" fight sequence between the actress and Dietrich in the saloon ending with Stewart dumping a bucket of water on the two. In 1956 the Una Merkel won the Tony Award for the play "The Ponder Heart" and in 1961 Una Merkel was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the filmed version of Tennessee Williams' play "Summer and Smoke". Also in 1961 Merkel was in the original version of Walt Disney's "The Parent Trap". She played Brian Keith's very savvy housekeeper.
"Dr. Joel Cairo" was portrayed by Otto Matieson. For some reason "Cairo" was now a Doctor, but in the novel he used to be "Gutman's" agent. Matieson was born in Denmark and was seen during the silent era in mainly films made in that country. "The Maltese Falcon" was the actor's last film as Otto Matieson was killed in a car accident on February 19, 1932.
"Wilmer Cook" was portrayed by Dwight Frye". On February 12, 1931 one of two memorable characterizations by the actor was first seen on the motion picture screen. The role was that of "R.M. Renfield" in director Todd Browning version of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" starring Bela Lugosi. Immediately after "The Maltese Falcon", on November 21, 1931, the actor was seen as the hunchback "Fritz" in director James Whale's production of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly's "Frankenstein: the Man Who Made A Monster" (Original complete title). Frye was closely associated with the Universal Studios horror films. Look closely and my reader will find Dwight Frye in 1933's "The Invisible Man", 1935's "Bride of Frankenstein", 1939's "Son of Frankenstein", 1942's "Ghost of Frankenstein" and 1943's "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman". He also appeared in an interesting 1933 low budget horror entry from Majestic Pictures. Frye had fourth billing in "The Vampire Bat". The three actors above him in order were Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray and Melvyn Douglas.
The original screenplay was by three writers. Brown Holmes went on to co-write the screenplays for two classic movies of the era: 1932's "I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang" starring Paul Muni and the same years "20,000 Years in Sing Sing" starring Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis, Maude Fulton was not only a screenplay writer, but an actress on both stage and screen. The third writer was Lucien Hubbard who received no credit, but was the most productive of the three. He started writing in 1919 with a western chapter serial. In 1927 Hubbard produced the William Wellman directed "Wings". The first movie to be awarded the Best Picture Oscar. Hubbard remained basically a producer through the reminder of his career. Occasionally directing a film, or returning to writing.
Their screenplay uses dialogue and scenes straight out of Dashiell Hammett's work. As this was prior to the Motion Picture Code, or the Hayes Office censorship. There remains the strong homosexual relationships between. "Wilmer", referred too as the "boyfriend" of "Casper Gutman", and "Joel Cairo". The ex-"Agent" of "Gutman".
Even the role of "Detective Lieutenant Dundy", played by Robert Elliot, is questionable as to his sexual preferences. As "Sam Spade" uses terms such as: "sweetheart" and "precious" to refer to the Police Officer.
In the scene the follows "Gutman" paying"Spade" the first installment of his finders fee for acquiring the Falcon. It is discovered that one $1,000 dollar bill is missing. As "Ruth Wonderly" handled the envelope containing ten bills of that denomination. "Gutman" claims he hasn't got it and this leads to a pre-code scene in the kitchen were "Wonderly" went. To prove she doesn't have the money. "Sam" orders her to strip. This is right out of the novel and of course the naked "Ruth Wonderly" hasn't the money and "Spade" realizes that "Gutman" palmed it.
The opening of the 1931 film is entirely different than in 1941. The audience sees an overview of San Francisco and when we enter "Spade's" office. He is seen silhouetted kissing a women. The audience never sees who she is except by a shot of her legs, but the implication is this is"Spade's" partner "Miles Archer's",Walter Long, wife "Iva", Thelma Todd. Again by implication the 1931 film goes to "Sam" and "Iva" actually having an affair as in the novel. The affair will be brought up by Detectives "Dundy" and "Tom Polhaus", J. Farrell MacDonald, when they question "Sam" over "Miles'" murder and his relationship with "Iva".
The film progresses through the story as written by Dashiell Hammett. "Wonderly" hires "Spade and Archer" to find a man named "Thursby" who is connected to her "phantom" sister. Both "Thursby" and "Archer" are murdered. When "Spade" arrives at the scene of "Archer's"murder among those he speaks to is a Chinese man. As mentioned above "Sam" is a possible suspect in "Miles Archer's" murder.
The relationship between "Spade" and "Wonderly" becomes deeper and the implication of sexual encounters between the two are stronger than would be seen in 1941. Which again goes back to the novel and the pre-code attitudes of motion pictures. The above picture of Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels should give my readers an idea of the change in tone between the two films. Such as the following bath scene in which the actress was actually naked, but not as revealing as the bathing scene of Claudette Colbert as "Empress Poppaea" in Cecil B. DeMile's 1932 "The Sign of the Cross".
In that sequence relating to the missing $1,000 bill. "Casper Gutman" admits to "Sam Spade" that "Wilmer" killed both "Thursby" and "Jacoby" the Sea Captain. "Wilmer" pulls a gun on the group, but "Sam" gets it and the cheap hood becomes the groups "Foul-guy" for all three murders.
"Sam" had explained that the "Maltese Falcon" is being held until morning and after calling "Effie" to get it. The group settles down for the night in his apartment, The following morning the suitcase containing the "Black Bird" arrives and is opened. While everyone is busy looking at the Falcon statue. This gives "Wilmer" the chance to escape the "Spade's" apartment though a window.
The 1931 film ends very deferentially than 1941. Realizing that the "Black Bird" is a fake. At gunpoint "Gutman" takes back the $10,000 from "Spade"and with "Joel Cairo" leaves. "Sam" calls "Detective Polhaus" to pick up "Gutman", "Cairo" and "Wilmer" and tells "Polhaus" that he has the gun that killed "Thursbay" and "Jacoby".
Next "Spade" makes "Ruth Wonderly" confess to the murder of "Miles Archer" and despite his love for her calls the police. The two detectives arrive and tell "Sam" and "Ruth" that "Wilmer" killed "Gutman" and "Cairo" before being captured. "Spade" has the two arrest "Wonderly" for the "Archer" murder and give them"Wilmer's" gun.
The audience learns,from a newspaper article, that "Sam" produced an actual witnesses to the murder of "Archer" at "Ruth Wonderly's" murder trial. It was the Chinese Businessman "Lee Fu Gow" he spoke too at the original murder scene..
The film ends with "Sam" visiting "Ruth" in jail. He then tells the Matron to give her the best of everything and especially food. When asked whose to pay for these items? "Sam Spade" replies the District Attorney's Office as he is now an Assistant District Attorney.
Nowhere in the 1931 feature does the audience hear the line:
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
The Second Version Released October 3, 1941
Take a look at the writing credits for the 1941 "The Maltese Falcon" and you will find only two names given. The two are the pictures director John Huston and the fact that it is based upon Dashiell Hammett's novel. Should may reader have knowledge of the 1931 version and you will not only find many of the same scenes, but in many cases the same dialogue. John Huston rewrote sections of the original Holmes, Fulton, Hubbard screenplay and changed the opening and ending of his film. Otherwise he kept the middle pretty much intact. He did face a problem director Roy Del Ruth didn't and that was the Hays Office and censorship as my reader will read.
The change to the opening of the 1941 version is a title card first seen after the opening credits that reads:
In 1539 the Knight Templars of Malta, paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels----but pirates seized the galley carrying this priceless token and the fate of the Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this very day.Although that description is based upon Hammett's novel. As I already mentioned the "Knight Templars" were not an order anywhere in the World in 1539, but the tale sure makes a good story to catch the audience's attention.
The "The Knight Templars,or the Order of the Temple of Solomon" initially were from 1118 to FRIDAY October 13, 1311. The origin of Friday the 13th being a bad day. Those who were not murdered by the Pope's orders joined the "Hositallers". For the record the order was reinstated in 2013.
I am sure the majority of my readers are familiar with this film's cast; For those who aren't I'll go over the same six main roles.
"Sam Spade" was of course portrayed by Humphrey Bogart. Whose actual name was Humphrey DeForest Bogart. "Bogie" had been appearing in films since 1921, but made his impression on audiences as "Duke Mantee" in the film version of the play "The Petrified Forest" in a role he performed on Broadway. As a result of the movie Warner Brothers would keep casting him as a Gangster, or the bad guy. The first oddity in both Bogart's and Jimmy Cagney's film career came when both were miscast in of all things "The Oklahoma Kid" a 1939 western. Cagney was "Jim Kincaid" the title character and Bogart was the bad guy in black "Whip McCord". Also in 1939 Bogart got a solid non gangster role in the Bette Davis vehicle "Dark Victory". She is a carefree socialite that loves horses and he's her stablemaster whose always been in love with her.
While on the other hand contract player Humphrey Bogart found himself cast, by Warner Brothers, as a dead mad scientist brought back to life in 1939's "The Return of Dr. X". A movie that was more like a typical gangster picture than horror movie.
Although this film is tied forever with "Bogie". Humphrey Bogart was not the first choice to portray "Sam Spade". Producer Hal B. Wallis wanted George Raft, but the actor flatly turned him down. Raft didn't want to work for an inexperienced director nobody had heard of. He made the choice to co-star with Edgar G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich in "Manpower" directed by Raul Walsh. A film noir with positive reviews, but completely forgotten. Filmed in 1940 and released in January 1941 had been "High Sierra" also directed by Raul Walsh. Raft had refused the role of killer "Roy Earle" and it went to Bogart. The film is considered to have launched his career. Many critics and Raft biographers believe he also made strike three and passed on the role of "Rick" in "Casablanca".
"Ruth Wonderly/Brigid O'Shaughnessy" was portrayed by Mary Astor. She had been born Lucille Vasconcellos Langhanke.. Astor had also started in films in 1921. In 1932 she portrayed "Mary Ellis" in the Clark Gable/Jean Harlow vehicle "Red Dust". Astor's career went up and down, but she had roles in the 1937 "The Prisoner of Zenda" and John Ford's 1937 "The Hurricane". In 1940 she appeared as "Mary Ann Young" in the motion picture "Brigham Young" and following the coaching and advise of Bette Davis the star of 1941's "The Great Lie". Mary Astor won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Then there was "The Maltese Falcon".
"Kasper Gutman" was portrayed by Sydney Greenstreet. Greenstreet's name never appears on the film's posters. The British actor was born Sydney Hughes Greenstreet and this was the stage actors first motion picture. Greenstreet would appear with both Bogart and Peter Lorre in "Casablanca" and "Passage to Marseille". The rotund actor also appeared in the Errol Flynn motion picture "They Died With Their Boots On" and director Don Siegel's 1946 film noir "The Verdict".
When John Huston was introduced to Greenstreet by Hal Wallis. The actor weighted approximately 280 pounds and would weigh closer to 350 by end of filming. It was the way the actor carried himself and size that caused Huston to change some of the screenplay by referring to "Gutman" as "The Fat Man". A name that starts to becomes very chilling when mentioned by both "Wonderly" and "Cairo" until he makes his entrance. Then the great camera angles, like the one above, by Director of Photography Arthur Edison. Take over and just add to the evil incarnate of the scheming "Fat Man". As compared to the standard flat straight on photography of William Rees for the 1931 version.
"Effie Perine" was portrayed by actress Lee Patrick. Patrick would reprise her role in the 1975 comedy "The Black Bird" starring George Segal as "Sam Spade, Jr.". On a more serious note the actress played an "Asylum Inmate" in a still very strong "The Snake Pit". The 1948 drama/horror film starred Oliva de Havilland as a women committed to an "Asylum". Lee Patrick was "Henrietta Topper" opposite Leo G. Carroll as her husband "Cosmo" on television. "Cosmo" is haunted by the ghosts of his friends "George and Marion Kirby". The comedy television series, based upon a 1937 movie starring Cary Grant as "George Kirby", ran for two years starting in 1953. Later the actress would use her voice talents in the 1961 through 1962 animated television series "The Alvin Show". about "Alvin and the Chipmunks".
"Joel Cairo" was portrayed by Peter Lorre. On the above poster he has fourth billing behind actress Gladys George. George played the small role of "Iva", but was considered by Warner Brothers the better known of the two. Of course in Germany Lorre had been seen as the child murderer of Fritz Lang's classic "M", in the United States he had been "Mr. Moto" in a series of films about the Japanese detective. In 1944 he would join, once more, Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Greenstreet in "Passage to Marseille" which featured Claude Rains. Whom the actor was in with "Bogie" in 1942's "Casablanca" as already mentioned.
Director John Huston and Peter Lorre were able to get the homosexual aspect of "Cairo" into the picture without the Hayes Office interference. Houston never really used any obvious words, which in 1941 would have been removed, but let the audience make up their own minds about "Joe" through Lorre's performance.
My article on the life of Peter Lorre can be read at:
"Wilmer Cook" was portrayed by one of those great "Faces" in Film Noir Elisha Cook, Jr. The actor started out in 1930 and over his 60 year career covering 219 performances. Cook could be seen in such films as: 1941's "Sergeant York", 1945's "Dillinger", 1949's "The Great Gatsby", in 1953 both "Shane" and the Mike Hammer feature "I the Jury". On television the actor was seen on such diverse titles as "The Adventures of Superman", "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". He was featured in 1957's "Voodoo Island" starring Boris Karloff and of course one can not forget his role in William Castle's original 1959 "The House on Haunted Hill".
As to the never really mentioned homosexuality of "Wilmer" in the 1941 motion picture. Re-writer John Huston played upon one word that, if you knew all it's meanings did the job and slipped through the Hayes Office.
That word was "GUNSEL" and "Sam" refers to "Wilmer" by that name in the motion picture. It was also originally used by Daishell Hammett in his novel for this same purpose.
The 1930's and early 1940's were filled with gangster movies and one definition of "Gunsel" that the public was well aware of was a:
gun-carrying hoodlum, or other criminalMost viewers of the film go right too that defination, because of how "Wilmer' is shown. However, there is another definition that goes straight to his homosexuality. That definition of "Gunsel" is:
a young man kept for homosexual purposesBoth Hammett and Houston knew what they were doing by having "Spade" call "Wilmer" a "Gunsel".
John Houston's screenplay reduced the appearances of three characters to tighten it up. These three were:
"Iva Archer" the wife of "Sam's" partner "Miles Archer" played by Jerome Cowan, As I previously mentioned "Iva" was portrayed by Gladys George who had third billing in the 1941 film, but is hardly seen. "Iva's" relationship with "Sam" is not as "heated" as in the 1931 film or the novel. Once more keeping the Hayes Office happy. They may have had something, but in this version that "Something" appears more one sided in her mind. "Sam" uses "Effie" constantly to keep "Iva" away from him.
Gladys George was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 1936 for the forgotten motion picture "Valiant Is the Word for Carrie". She co-starred with Spencer Tracy in 1937's "They Gave Him a Gun" and portrayed "Madame du Barry" in 1938's "Marie Antoinette" starring Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power. For Warner Brothers the actress was in "The Roaring Twenties" starring James Cagney, Priscilla Lane and co-staring Humphrey Bogart among other films..
"Detective Tom Polhaus" was played by Ward Bond. "Polhaus" is a good friend of "Spade's" in the San Francisco Police Department. He enters at the scene of "Miles Archer's" murder. Any reference to his possible homosexuality as in the novel and the 1931 film has been dropped.
Eight billed Bond has already appeared in John Ford's 1939 "Young Mr. Lincoln" starring Henry Fonda and was part of John Ford's "Stock Company". Also in 1939 he had a role in "Gone With the Wind". Ward Bond was seen in multiple episodes of Peter Lorre's "Mr. Moto", appeared in Ford's 1940"The Grapes of Wrath" once more with Fonda and John Ford cast him in 1941's "Tobacco Road" based upon another John Steinbeck novel..
"Detective Lieutenant Dundy" was an even smaller part in this version and was portrayed by fifth billed Barton MacLane. His part is even smaller than Lee Patrick, but she was billed after MacLane. He was known for playing "B" Cowboy villains, Gangsters and just Tough Guy roles. He had character names such as "Gunner Malone", "Ace King", "Red Mason" and "Blackie Drew". His films covered many genres such as 1936's ":The Walking Dead" starring Boris Karloff and 1944's "The Mummy Ghost" starring Lon Chaney, Jr. "Melody Ranch" was owned by Gene Autry and besides this Bogart film. Barton MacLane was in both Raul Walsh's "High Sierra" and John Huston's 1948 "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".
One cameo role in John Huston's directorial debut must be mentioned as a piece of trivia.
Above "Captain Jacoby" initially delivers "The Black Bird" to "Sam Spade". The trivia part of this scene is that the role of the freighter captain was played by a non screen credited Walter Huston. Who wanted to appear in his son John's first film for good luck for free, but because of Union regulations. Studio head Jack L. Warner required John to pay Walter ten cents for his appearance. For those who might be interested in inflation. That payment in 2018 would have to be $1.77, or 1,670 percent higher than when Walter Huston was paid.
The term "Film Noir" was coined by French movie critic Nino Frank in 1946. The translation of the term is literally "Black Film", but the word "Black" is generally substituted with "Dark". So "Film Noir" is really a "Dark Film". Written in 1955 and still considered, as of this writing, the authority on the subject is the French work by Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton "Panorama Du Film Noir American".
Their work covers what is considered the "Film Noir" period of American motion pictures starting in 1941 and ending in 1953. According to Borde and Chaumeton John Huston's 1941 "The Maltese Falcon: was the first great American Film Noir. Even though nobody connected with the motion picture had any idea what Film Noir was at the time.
Below the classic dialogue sequence and set up straight from Dashiell Hammett's novel. As the two detectives are attempting to figure out who killed "Archer" and "Thursby". In this bit of double talk "Joel Cairo" ends up being taken away for an unseen night of interrogation to no avail for "Dundy" and "Polhaus".
Below the envelope sequence from 1941. There is no stripping by Mary Astor, but Elisha Cook, Jr. does become the "Foul Guy".
The ending as I mentioned is different than in the 1931 film. In the morning after "Effie" arrives with the package and leaves. It is opened to reveal "The Black Bird".
I could only find this staged publicity photo of the four primary characters with "The Maltese Falcon", but in the actual sequence. As "Gutman" discovers "The Black Bird" to be a fake. "Wilmer" makes his escape from "Spade's" apartment. The the major changes in the ending occurs when "Gutman" asks "Cairo", if he would like to go with him to Istanbul to continue their search for the real Falcon. The two leave and "Sam" confronts "Brigid" getting her to confess to murdering "Miles Archer" and setting up "Thursby". Although he has strong feelings for her. He turns her in to the police thereby solving the killings for the detectives.
Next we see "Sam" and "Effie" in his office as she inquires about what the fake "Maltese Falcon" really was to the murders. To which "Sam Spade" replies that "The Black Bird" was:
THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OFAccording to the stories associated with the screenplay. The line was Humphrey Bogart's idea and came from a variation of one from William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" which reads:
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, / And our little life is rounded with
I want to point out one major always overlooked difference between both Dashiell Hammett's original novel and John Huston's 1941 film to the ending of the 1931 motion picture production. This is the actual importance of the created character of Chinese Business Man "Lee Fu Gow".
As William Ahearn writes "Lee Fu Gow" provides the missing piece of the puzzle in both the novel and the 1941 feature film. This is the question no reader of Hammett, or viewer of Huston ever seems to ask:
HOW DID "SAM SPADE" EVER SUSPECT 'BRIGID O'SHAUGHNESSY" OF MURDERING "MILES ARCHER"?
If you’ve read The Maltese Falcon and have seen the 1940 John Huston film adaptation, you are probably wondering who Lee Fu Gow is and how he figured in the plot. He doesn’t. Lee Fu Gow is the character in the Roy Del Ruth 1931 original film production of “The Maltese Falcon” who witnessed the murder of Miles Archer. Lee Fu Gow tells Spade something in Chinese at the scene of Archer’s murder and the audience isn’t let in on the information until the end of the movie where a newspaper article shows Lee Fu Gow as a surprise witness who identified Ruth Wonderly as the killer of Archer at her trial.http://www.williamahearn.com/maltesehamm.html
Should my reader now be asking themselves how does the novel actually end? See the ending of the 1941 motion picture minus the famous line and you have almost the exact finish.. Neither film version portrays "Sam" completely as Dashiell Hammett did. There are more questions than answers as the website "shmoop.com" writes"
As for the unpredictable Brigid O'Shaughnessy, it doesn't come as too much of a shock that she murdered Miles since she's pretty much lying for the entire novel. What comes as more of a surprise is Spade's rejection of the woman he loves but won't tolerate.
When Spade turns Brigid over to the police, is he upholding his professional code of ethics by refusing to let her get away with killing his partner? Or is he trying to save his own neck by sacrificing Brigid to keep himself off the police's list of suspects?
There are a bunch of ways to read Spade's final actions. He could be sacrificing his own love for Brigid in order to do the right thing by bringing justice to Miles' death. Or he could be using Brigid to keep himself out of the hot seat with the cops. Hammett maintains this atmosphere of moral ambiguity to suggest that even the motives of our protagonist murky and contradictory.
Nobody in this book (except maybe Effie) has much in the way of redeeming qualities. Even though Sam Spade is not doomed, he does get his comeuppance at the end, earning the contempt of Effie for betraying Brigid, and being left with the affection of Iva Archer, whom he doesn't want anymore. So much for happily ever after.
Should my reader be interested in other works by John Huston. The following link take you to my article on his productions of "Moby Dick", "The Barbarian and the Geisha", "Freud" and "The List of Adrian Messenger".
SATAN MET A LADY released July 22, 1936.
The 1931 "The Maltese Falcon" was a box office success for Warner Brothers. As was the habit in the 1930's, as sometimes today, the studio decided to rip off their own film and that became "Satan Met A Lady".
Warner Brothers assigned Contract Writer Brown Holmes, whom I mentioned worked on the 1931 screenplay, to write a new version of Hammett's work without the same characters. Although strangely Warner Brothers left in the on screen credits that the picture was based upon Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon".
When you look at the film one has to wonder if Holmes was having fun with his employers, because of the comedy touches throughout. The working title was now "Man in the Black Hat" and that was changed to "Men on Her Mind". Neither of which sounded like Dashiell Hammett, or for that matter a detective/murder mystery of the period.
When the film was released the title had been changed a third time to "Satan Met A Lady" and that title went back to the original Dashiell Hammett novel. Hammett described "Sam Spade" as looking:
rather pleasantly like a blonde Satan
I shouldn't need to point out that neither Humphrey Bogart, or Ricardo Cortez were blonde.
In this screenplay "Sam Spade" became "Ted Shane" portrayed by Warren William. Who also wasn't blonde. Among William's other filmed characters were fictional detective "Philo Vance" and lawyer "Perry Mason" played three times by the date of this film's release. William would continue to play both through 1939. Warren William was "Julius Caesar" in Cecil B. DeMille's big budgeted "Cleopatra" starring Claudette Colbert.
"Brigid O'Shaughnessy" became "Valerie Purvis" portrayed by Bette Davis. By this time Davis had reached the top. Previously among her better known roles had been 1932's "20,000 Years in Sing Sing", 1934's "Of Human Bondage" and the same year as this film. 1936's "The Petrified Forest" with of course Humphrey Bogart..
Sound somewhat familiar?
"Shane" returns to work with his former partner "Milton Ames". "Ames" is still upset over the fact that "Ted" dated his wife "Astrid", before she and "Milton" were married.
Enter "Valerie Purvis" who hires the two detectives to locate a man name "Farrow". "Ames" goes to investigate and is killed along with "Farrow". "Ted Shane" becomes suspect number one. Not to have names sound too familiar, but "Detective Dundy" has become "Detective Dunhill" and "Detective Polhaus" has become "Detective Pollock".
"Spade's" secretary "Effie" becomes "Miss Murgatroyd" portrayed by Marie Wilson. Wilson was known for her comic timing and portraying characters that were known then as "DITZY", or the stereo typical "Dumb Blonde".
"Joel Cairo" is now "Anthony Travers" portrayed by Arthur Teacher. Teacher stood 6 feet 4 inches and appeared in several Shirley Temple movies in dance routines with her. He became the side kick to Merv Griffith on his from 1962 through 1963 on an unsuccessful day time talk show.
"Casper Gutman" was morphed into "Madame Barabas" portrayed by Allison Skipworth. She was actually born Alison Mary Elliott Margaret Groom. Among her acting roles was as a foul for W.C. Fields in a series of motion pictures and portraying the "Duchess" in Paramount Pictures all star 1933 "Alice in Wonderland". A must see movie for any film buff.
So what about that 16th Century "Maltese Falcon"? In "Satan Met A Lady" the treasure hunters are looking for an 8th Century "Ram's Horn" filled with jewels.
When the "Ram's Horn" is finally revealed it doesn't contain jewels, but sand. The police get all the suspects except "Ted Shane" and "Valerie Purvis". They escape and "Shane" gets her to confess to the murder of "Milton Ames", but "Ted" never collects the $10,000 reward on her. "Valerie" gets a women's washroom attendant to turn her into the police.
As for detective "Ted Shane" Brown Holmes does the one thing I expect many viewers of the 1941 film wished happened between "Effie" and "Sam"/ Inin this case. "Miss Murgatroyd" get "Ted Shane".
Warner Brothers did not get the results they hoped for with "Satan Met A Lady" as Variety wrote when the picture was released:
This is an inferior remake of [1931's] The Maltese Falcon.... Many changes have been made in story structure as well as title, but none is an improvement.
No matter which version you prefer of Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon". One thing remains "The Black Bird" is a priceless treasure. Several statues were made for the film, but most were light weight resin and are long gone. In 2013 Real Estate Mogul Steve Wynn bought one of the original 45 pound statues, only two of that weight were made, used in the John Huston film for $4.1 Million Dollars.
So I guess he believes in:
THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF