At the Spade and Archer detective agency in San Francisco, Samuel Spade is interviewed by the beautiful Miss Wonderly, who wishes to hire him to find her runaway sister. Sam’s partner, Miles Archer, agrees to be present when Wonderly meets Floyd Thursby, her sister’s seducer, and then follow him to his hotel in hopes of finding the missing girl. Later that night, Sam learns that Miles has been shot. He calls Wonderly and learns that she has checked out of her hotel. Then Thursby is found with four bullet holes in his back and Sam is visited by Lt. Dundy and Detective Tom Polhaus, two policemen, who suspect him of murdering Thursby out of revenge for Miles’s death. The following morning, Wonderly summons Sam to her new address, where she confesses that her real name is Brigid O’Shaughnessy and that the story she related the day before was completely false. Despite his doubts that she has told him the whole truth, Sam accepts her as his client. The announcement of Thursby’s death draws an inquiry from a mysterious little man named Joel Cairo, who tells Sam that he is trying to recover a statue of a black falcon. When Sam denies any knowledge of the statue, Cairo pulls a gun and demands to search the office. Sam disarms Cairo, who offers the detective $5,000 to find the bird. Sam accepts the offer, and Cairo once again holds Sam at gunpoint while he searches the office. When Brigid learns of Cairo’s visit, she asks Sam to set up a meeting with him and tells Cairo that she doesn’t have the statue, but will in a few days. Their meeting is interrupted by the police, who have been sent by Miles’s widow Iva, who is jealous because she and Sam had been having an affair. The police now begin to suspect Sam of Miles’s murder, but he spins a complicated story to stop the police from arresting the three of them for questioning. Kasper Gutman, known as “The Fat Man,” is also interested in the statue and summons Sam, but when Gutman refuses to explain his interests, Sam storms out. Later, Wilmer Cook, Gutman’s gunman, brings Sam back to Gutman’s apartment. Gutman tells Sam that after the Crusades, Charles V of Spain presented the Knights Templar with the island of Malta, requiring only the tribute of a falcon every year. The statue everyone wants is a golden, jewel-encrusted replica of a falcon that was stolen by pirates and afterward disappeared for centuries. After it reappeared in Greece, Gutman planned to buy it, but it was again stolen and he has been following its trail ever since. He offers Sam $50,000 to find it, but before Sam can accept, he passes out from doctored drinks. When he comes to, he searches the room and finds a paper announcing the arrival of a ship from Hong Kong, but at the docks, Sam finds the ship on fire. He returns to his office, where a dying man stumbles in with a package. The man is Jacoby, the captain of the Hong Kong ship, and the package contains the statue. A phone call from Brigid takes Sam on a wild goose chase, but first he checks the package and mails the claim check to himself. When Sam finally returns home, Brigid, Gutman, Cairo and Wilmer are waiting. Sam agrees to turn over the bird if Gutman will allow Wilmer to take the blame for the three murders. When Effie arrives with the package, however, it is quickly discovered that the bird is a fake. In the confusion, Wilmer escapes. After Gutman and Cairo leave, Sam calls the police and turns them all in. Brigid admits that she shot Miles, hoping to implicate Thursby. Even though he is fascinated by her dangerous beauty, Sam turns Brigid in for the murder of his partner. —Turner Classic Movies
Adventure in many forms is the theme of many of John Huston’s films. His characters are constantly searching for “the stuff that dreams are made of” (the famous closing-line of his debut film The Maltese Falcon). Huston glorified this chase despite its frequent disillusionment and false promise, since it represented a flight from the complacent virtues of ordinary life. Like Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad, Huston regarded civilization as a false surface which thinly veiled a hostile nature. Only those who lived at the edge, on the margins of society were regarded by Huston as fellow travellers. In films as diverse as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle and Under the Volcano, Huston celebrated men who circled the abyss; characters who are driven to plunge head first into the void.
The son of the great theatre and film actor Walter Huston (who would win an Oscar under his son’s direction for his role in The Treasure of Sierra Madre) and crime journalist Rhea Gore… read more
Watched in my film noir class, not sure really. Bits of it were good. I found the storyline confusing but maybe that is because I am not well versed in film noir as of yet.
"The first great antihero of American movies, Humphrey Bogart remained the epitome of nonconformist cool for generations after his death
“What is it?”
“The stuff that dreams are made of”
Surprisingly, it turns out Dashiell Hammett never wrote those lines…..but they’re in the script all right. And… read review
After a peripatetic career leading up to a stint as a Universal contract writer in Hollywood John Huston gained some traction with his successful adaptation of ‘High Sierra’ for Warners in 1941. His… read review
Writer John Huston convinced Warner studios to let him try his hand at directing. He picked a story that had already been filmed twice (1931 and 1936), wrote the script (with Dashiell Hammett), planned… read review