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  • Writer's pictureAliya

1 Woman, 100 Movies - #93: The Maltese Falcon

I’m continuing my cinematic mission to watch the 100 greatest movies of all time. You can read more about my idea here. #93 – The Maltese Falcon Year released: 1941 Genre: Crime, Film Noir IMDb rating: 8 Summary: San Francisco private detective Sam Spade takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette, with the stakes rising after his partner is murdered. Previously seen?: No

First Thoughts

Hey, it's Humphrey Bogart. He's a film legend that I've heard a lot about (all Casablanca related) so it's cool that I'll finally be watching one of his films. I expect that he'll be a super swaggy detective that tips his hat a lot at women. This was released in 1941, so will there be a lot of that cop jargon that ends in "see?" That would be fun. Also, the set photos look dope.

Summary & Final Thoughts

Humphrey Bogart is a pretty cool guy. My expectation that he would be a swaggy no-nonsense detective were met, and I get why he was a fan fave. A problematic man who will stop at nothing to get justice and to also walk away the hero. People love that stuff.

Samuel Spade (Bogart) owns a private detective agency with his partner Miles Archer. The two get a surprise visit from a suspicious and pretty lady (Brigid O'Shaughnessy, played by Mary Astor) who's interested in their services. She has a lot of money for the job - to follow around some fellow that has kidnapped her sister - but not a lot of credibility. But Archer thinks she's pretty so he jumps at the chance to take on the job. So of course, he's rewarded by getting shot to death in the next scene.

Spade is awoken by a late night phone call notifying him of his partner's death. "I see," he responds. Not a typical response for someone who just learned that his partner was shot in the chest and then rolled down a hill face-first into a boulder. This Spade guy must be really cool.

Turns out, there was more to it. Apparently, Spade wasn't a huge fan of Archer. So much so, that Spade was having an affair with his wife. Who, in her grief, shows up to the office to be consoled by her lover, and then to accuse him of killing her husband. Drammmaaaaa!

Let me not get distracted. The cops are also curious about Spade and his lack of grief, so much so that they also think he may have killed his partner. It doesn't help matters that right after Archer was killed, the man he was supposed to be following was also gunned down. Quick, someone track down Brigid!

The Maltese Falcon
Brigid cooking up her next lie.

And that's just what Sam does (switching to first name references now, because I refuse to type out O'Shaughnessy again after this). Sam is trying to figure out what the heck is going on, but Brigid can't stop lying. So much so that she admits that even she has trouble keeping it straight.

What Sam soon figures out is that Brigid made up the whole story about her sister. She really wanted that man followed because they were in cahoots to steal a priceless falcon statue and she has been double-crossed is now afraid for her life. Or is she? This lady stay lying.

But Sam goes along with her story, gives her his smoldering eyes, gets frustrated with her when she keeps lying, and then of course, decides to forcefully kiss her on the mouth when she asks how she could earn his trust. Not very professional, detective.

From here, it gets a bit convoluted, with lots of twists and turns and additional shady characters such as Joel Cairo played by the legendary Peter Lorre and Kasper Gutman played by Sydnney Greenstreet. In the end, it comes down to Samuel and Brigid in a battle of wits with Kasper and his gang. Sam has come to posses the Maltese falcon statue (because a boat burned down? a little random, imo) and has agreed to sell it to Kasper for $10,000. Kasper has confessed to killing Brigid's crooked acquaintance and the captain of the burned down boat (I'm not getting into the boat thing, read it here for yourself).

maltese falcon
Sam Spade with the Maltese Falcon statue. Fun fact: the film made several of these falcon statue props, and they're super valuable today.

When it's time to hand over the statue to Kasper, he quickly discovers it's a fake and descends into madness...for about 10 seconds. Then he snaps out of it and vows to travel the world to continue to search for the statue. Creepy Joel Cairo agrees and off they go.

After they leave, Sam quickly calls the police to update them on Gutman's plan, and voila! Sam has saved the day - case closed. But not so fast. Gutman confessed to orchestrating the killings of two people, but what about Archer, his dead partner? Turns out, it was Brigid! She denies it, tells a couple lies, and then fesses up. Samuel says that he loves her and he'll wait for her if she gets 20 years. Brigid asks if he loves her so much why can't he let her be free? "Guy code, hon. Can't do it."*

And that's that. He tells the police about Brigid, she gets arrested, and he hands over the fake falcon statue to the police. "What is it?" one of the policeman asks.

"Stuff dreams are made of," responds Samuel, contemplatively.

"Huh??" asks the policeman**, wondering wtf he's talking about.

And the credits roll.

* Not a direct quote

** A direct quote! I cackled when it happened, lol


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