Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Maltese Falcon (1941)

And now, to finish off the month of “Noir-vember,” we have the classic 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George and Peter Lorre!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mail And Female (1937)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 57 seconds)

Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) has just sent Darla (Darla Hood) a love letter, but finds out too late that he’s been elected the president of the “He-Man Woman Hater’s Club” (and is therefore not allowed to talk to girls or write any letters to them).  He tries to see Darla to get his letter back, but Spanky (George McFarland) and a few others come around to make sure that he follows their rules.  This was yet another hilarious Little Rascals short!  Much like the short Hearts Are Thumps from earlier in 1937, Spanky is after Alfalfa for breaking the rules of the “He-Man Woman Haters Club,” although Alfalfa is briefly able to put one over on him by dressing in drag and posing as Darla’s cousin Amelia (who almost makes Spanky himself forget about the rules).  Of course, the whole concept of the “He-Man Woman Haters Club” certainly doesn’t go over well today (nor should it), but it’s still an entertaining entry in the series that I look forward to seeing again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Gay Parisian (1941)

(Available as an extra on The Maltese Falcon Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, available individually or packaged with the 4K UHD)

(Length: 20 minutes, 2 seconds)

A young Peruvian (Léonide Massine) arrives in Paris, and immediately falls for a beautiful glove seller (Milada Mladova). However, she also has the interest of the Baron (Frederic Franklin), and the two men vie for her attention. This was a rather interesting short, mainly meant to give movie audiences a bit of culture, as the short is performed entirely in dance by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. I think the dancing is fun, although it’s hard to tell what is going on story-wise (I wouldn’t have had any idea whatever if not for the opening narration). It’s not the greatest, but it’s certainly watchable (personally, I prefer some of the “dream ballets” that film musicals would later make use of, like in An American In Paris).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt (1941)

(Available as an extra on The Maltese Falcon Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, available individually or packaged with the 4K UHD)

(Length: 7 minutes, 47 seconds)

While Bugs Bunny is reading The Song Of Hiawatha, the real Hiawatha shows up to hunt him! This was an entertaining short, with Bugs doing his usual type of stunts to get back at the hunter. It’s still early in his character’s evolution, particularly as to how he is animated. It’s probably a bit more problematic these days in terms of how the Native American character is portrayed (which is essentially like Elmer Fudd, except with a different manner of speech). It does have a few laughs to it, but it’s not one of Bugs’ more memorable outings.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Meet John Doughboy (1941)

(Available as an extra on The Maltese Falcon Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, available individually or packaged with the 4K UHD)

(Length: 7 minutes)

Porky Pig introduces a newsreel of the American defense “improvements.” This was a rather middling cartoon, with Porky only making a very brief appearance to start the show. The rest is a variety of sight gags, with some faring better than others. There is one gag that very clearly references Jack Benny and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson that would not fare well with modern audiences (mainly because Rochester looks like he’s wearing blackface, instead of being naturally black like he was). It’s very much a propaganda short (albeit a humorous one), but, even though it does provide a few laughs, it’s not worth much.

And Now For The Main Feature…

At first, the case seemed simple enough. Private eyes Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) were hired by Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) to help find her sister, who was last known to be with a man named Floyd Thursby. But, in the process of tailing Floyd, Miles is quickly killed. Sam is notified of Miles’ death, and goes to inspect the scene of the crime. Right after he gets back to his apartment, the police arrive, and tell him that Floyd had also just been killed. They suspect Sam of killing Floyd, but can’t do much about it. Sam meets with Miss Wonderly at her new place, where she reveals that her original story was false (which Sam and Miles had already guessed) and that her real name is Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Upon returning to his office, Sam is visited by Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), who thinks Sam might have a bird statue that Floyd was assumed to be carrying. When he finds out that Sam doesn’t have it, Joel hires him to help find it. Sam meets with Joel again later (and brings in Brigid to talk things over), but they are interrupted by the police, who take Joel in for questioning. Sam soon meets Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), who is VERY interested in the statue (enough to pay Sam quite a sum of money for it). At first, he doesn’t tell Sam what all the fuss is about, but Sam’s tactics force him to divulge the story of the statue. However, Joel had already come to Kasper, and they decide to keep Sam out of the loop. Circumstances work out in Sam’s favor, though, as the statue is delivered to him at his office, and he finds a way to stall delivering it to Kasper, so that he can get his own terms (and survive). But will Sam’s methods work? And will he finally catch his partner’s murderer?

The movie was based on a story by Dashiell Hammett (who was also the author of The Thin Man) that had been written for Black Mask magazine before being put together as a novel in 1930. It was filmed shortly thereafter in 1931, with another version coming just five years after (although it was retitled as Satan Met A Lady and altered to be more of a comedy that fit within the Production Code guidelines). By the time the 1941 film came around, it was given to first-time director John Huston, with hopes to star George Raft. However, in one of a series of career mistakes, he decided against it, and the role went to Humphrey Bogart (not the first time that a role he declined went to Bogie, nor was it the last). Warner Brothers executives liked John Huston’s screenplay, but gave him a very limited budget and only six weeks to film it in (or else). Due to those restrictions, he carefully planned out every shot ahead of time with instructions for himself in the screenplay. As a result, he was able to film the whole movie very efficiently and in sequence, finishing a few days early and under budget. The results spoke for themselves, with the film becoming a big hit that helped Humphrey Bogart become a big star, and it was nominated for three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for newcomer Sydney Greenstreet, and Best Adapted Screenplay).

Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with this movie! It’s considered by some to be one of the first official film noirs, and while I don’t know enough to dispute that, I definitely think that everything works so well with this movie. Humphrey Bogart just fits the part of Sam Spade so well, and you can easily see how he brought a bit of the character to the role of Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep a few years later. Of course, the rest of the cast works well, and the story certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat, even when you’ve seen it so many times before! And it’s just as fun when you recognize some of the other actors and actresses who became bigger later, even if only for some of their TV roles, like Ward Bond in Wagon Train, or Barton MacLane from I Dream Of Jeannie. Personally, among film adaptations of Dashiell Hammett’s novels, I’ll take The Thin Man, if only because I prefer screwball comedy compared to straight drama. That being said, obviously The Maltese Falcon is no slouch! As I said, this is a great movie, and easily recommended, whether you’re a fan of the film noir genre or not!

This movie is available through Warner Home Video on Blu-ray (either individually or as part of the four-film Best Of Bogart Collection) and DVD.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2023) with… The Maltese Falcon (1941)

On April 4, 2023, Warner Home Video released The Maltese Falcon (1941) on 4K UHD. The new transfer comes from a 4K scan of the original camera negatives. As usually seems to be the case when dealing with restorations performed by Warner’s MPI (whether for Warner Home Video or Warner Archive Collection), this transfer is as good as you could hope for! There’s no dust, dirt or other debris, and the image is really spectacular! The 4K really allows the blacks and whites to be what they need to be. Worth noting, for those who like to future-proof, is that the included Blu-ray is still the 2010 Blu-ray (with the older transfer). It’s not worth it for those who haven’t made the jump to 4K (or never will), especially if you have the previous Blu-ray. But, for those who have, it does give you a chance to compare transfers, and the UHD’s new transfer blows the old one out of the water! Seriously, this is the best way to watch this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)Humphrey BogartThank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Upper World (1934) – Mary Astor – The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Peter Lorre – My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Sydney Greenstreet – Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

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