Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Maltese Falcon (1931)

1931, US, directed by Roy del Ruth

This first version of The Maltese Falcon features the rat-a-tat narrative movement so familiar from of 1930s Warner Brothers features, with the story sometimes moving so fast that it's difficult to keep the various characters straight. It's certainly hard to keep up with the various women in Sam Spade's life; here, he's a dedicated pre-Hays Code womaniser, with a cheerfully wandering eye. Spade is played by Ricardo Cortez, an Austrian-born actor who was repackaged as a Spanish star by the studio. This was one of his biggest parts, and though he's adequate he's certainly no Bogart: there are lines that fall utterly flat from his mouth, and director Roy del Ruth wisely keeps the focus on the supporting cast as much as possible.

Given the rich source material, and snappy dialogue, there is room for several nice character turns, especially from Dudley Digges in the role later made famous by Sydney Greenstreet, while the extraordinarily busy Thelma Todd, for whom this was just one of nine feature films in 1931, also appears (it's the kind of film where you expect a younger Bogart to pop up amongst the supporting players, as a tough perhaps).
This version doesn't possess the same sense of pervasive moral compromise that characterizes the 1941 film (the compromises seem off the cuff rather than soul-curdling), but it's an efficient telling of the Hammett tale of cynical, double-dealing ambition.

No comments:


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States