The Maltese Falcon

I watched this with my kids this afternoon and loved it. What a great movie for a rainy afternoon.

I am not sure either of my eleven year olds grasped the entire plot, but that’s fine. I didn’t get everything my first time through, either. I am pretty sure they got the richness of the characters, and the lack of a truly good traditional hero. Consider this scene in the first 15 minutes of the movie: Spade takes his partner’s widow into his office, shuts the door, and kisses her full on the lips. This is only hours after the partner has been murdered AND after Spade has been doing his very best to avoid this woman. My daughter was like, CAN WE PAUSE THE FILM. It’s a convoluted plot, so we did a lot of pausing. If they didn’t get all the twists and turns, they really seemed to get the lack of a hero. My daughter kept asking, Who are the bad guys? It’s a great question: they’re all bad guys, but some are just a little bit better than the others.

It’s hard for me to imagine anyone not enjoying this film. When I was twelve, I switched to filterless cigarettes so I could be more like Humphrey Bogart. I wanted to say stuff with a cigarette dangling from my lips, blow smoke in your face, and have everyone pegged. It’s hard for me to express how much I idolized Mr Bogart. He’s just a man’s man.

Earlier this evening, I asked my daughter for her final verdict. She liked it, but said it was scene after scene of people explaining what had happened in earlier scenes. She’s got a point. If the movie has a downside, you really do have to closely follow the explanations and understand the lies. I love that old timey gangster talk, but I suppose it’s harder for this generation of kids to grasp than it was for me.

“I love you like a son Willmer. If you lose a son, you can always get another. But there is only one Maltese Falcon. ha, ha, mah ha ha ha…”

Now it is your duty to read the book.

I too am a big fan of the speech of the gangsters and detectives of the old days.

‘Chances are you’ll be out in 20 years, and if you are, I’ll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.’

Actually, I don’t think this movie’s plot is supposed to make any sense whatsoever.

Sure you’re not thinking of The Big Sleep?

And while we’re talking Bogie, my favourite movie of the 20th century will always be Casablanca.


And still I am compelled to watch The Big Sleep every year.


“Somebody’s always giving me guns.”

Seconded! Although I agree with Tim that The Maltese Falcon rocks.

Wait, what?

The Maltese Falcon is the best movie in the world to watch after a break-up. Sure, Bogey could have taken the fall for her, but instead he sells her up the river. Such total bad-assery.

His speech explaining why he doesn’t take the fall for her is awesome, totally brilliant.

Isn’t there a thread on this board where someone says Hammet is not nearly in the same league as Chandler? Shame on that person.

Bogart as Sam Spade is totally bad-ass. Don’t care about nuthin’ - except his take. Just look at his reaction when he finds out his partner is dead:

Spade: When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. And it happens we’re in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it’s-it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere.
Its bad business! Beautiful! He has to talk himself into even caring about his partners murder.

I know the line about his “girlfriend”, gets all the praise - but I always think about his stammering soliloquy on why he should give a damn that his long time partner is dead…

Because his partner was a son of a bitch, and he didn’t like him at all.

But yeah, Bogart is great at those kind of lines. His normal affectless delivery combined with that distinctive manner of speaking works really well for those rare occasions when he puts some emotion into his voice.

If any of you haven’t read the book yet you really should. It, along with Hammet’s other work is simply fantastic. No one did morally ambiguous characters quite as well as he did. The Glass Key is another great example of his work.

Yeah, the Big Sleep doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s still a great movie. I believe Faulkner worked on the screenplay.

Ok, had to google it. It was Faulkner, but Leigh Brackett also worked on it. So we had a Nobel Prize winner and a leading Sci-Fi writer working a hard-boiled Raymond Chandler mystery. That probably won’t ever happen again.

“There is an apocryphal story about The Big Sleep, in which director Howard Hawks lost track of who had killed one of the minor characters. He called up screenwriter William Faulkner and Faulkner didn’t know. Faulkner called Chandler and Chandler didn’t know.”


Maltese Falcon is responsible moreso than any other film for getting me into detective and crime fiction.

He was going through puberty and cigarettes were a great way to clear your T-zone up. Is Tim older than Jeff Green?

But the thing is - he thought everyone was a son of a bitch. Did he like anyone? The second Archer was dead, he lost interest in his long affair with Archer’s wife - seems to me he was sleeping with her just to put one on his partner!

When it comes to judging people Bogart’s Sam Spade, seems to be a classic unreliable narrator.

If you like the movie, and the book, you might like Gumshoe: Reflections in a Private Eye.

Philosophy professor turned private-eye Josiah Thompson thinks about the Maltese Falcon and Kierkegaard and discusses real world cases he’s worked.

As I recall, he says the movie that gets private detective right is Night Moves. But there’s a lot of analysis of the Maltese Falcon book in it.

Yeah, he probably didn’t like anyone, but his partner less than most. It’s been a long time since I either saw the movie or read the book, but it’s great the way they illuminate one another. It’s extremely rare in the last 50 years that a movie adaptation of a book is even passable, much less that it can stand alone as a really interesting work of its own.

Yeah, it’s a different world now.

I was the first of my 7 siblings to start smoking, but by the time I was–I don’t know–maybe 14 or 15? most of them were smoking, too. When I say switched, I mean I stopped palming my mother’s Viceroys and started to buy my own, so that I could go filterless. I know I could have just ripped the filter off the Viceroy, but I wanted to have the pack. And wooden matches.

All this talk about goofy cartoon Camels making kids smoke makes me laugh. It was motherfucking Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Cagney and all those big floppy fedoras.