The Maltese Falcon (1941)

An absolute classic.

What I Watched Last Night...

John Huston’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon is one of those Hollywood warhorses about which it is just about impossible to say anything original. So I’ll start with something someone else has said about it which is still of interest. In a retrospective look at the film in 1960, Dwight Macdonald wrote “I think John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon is the best crime picture ever made in Hollywood…because [it] shows movie types behaving realistically instead of in the usual terms of romantic cliché.” [1]

Realism is probably not the first word that comes to mind today when people think about Falcon. Quite the opposite, people are likely to think of the stylized characters, the obviously contrived and synthetic story, the “hard boiled” dialog and of course, the panoply of fedoras, shoulder-pads, shiny over-sized cars and non-stop smoking that seems (rightly or wrongly) “so ’40s.” There is…

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