31. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

I wonder if John Huston had any idea how much of a classic his directorial debut would be? The Maltese Falcon stars Humphrey Bogart as Private Investigator Sam Spade, Mary Astor as the femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Gladys George as Iva Archer, Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo and Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman. Written by John Huston, based off the book by Dashiell Hammett, the film follows Sam Spade as he quickly becomes involved with three criminals, and their search for the Maltese Falcon, a treasure worth more than we could imagine. 

I think the thing I love most about this film is that the characters are chasing an uncatchable item. It’s that whole line “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of”; they’re chasing a dream. That’s it. They’re chasing something that may very well no longer exist. But, they’re so blinded by the possibility of finding the Falcon, that they never stop to consider that maybe there’s nothing left to catch. It’s the constant search for something more. 

The Maltese Falcon is nearly everything that a Film Noir should be, in my opinion. You have the Femme Fatale, you have homosexual subcontext, you have the characters chasing an uncatchable dream. The only thing this film lacks is narration and a score that plays up on the sinister nature of what is unfolding on the screen. John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon will surely remain on the AFI list for years to come. 

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