The Maltese Falcon

In appreciation of Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre: I love those guys! Bogey playing the kind of hard-boiled-on-the-outside-but-with-a-tender-center detective that he was made for. John Huston directing his own screenplay of the great Dashiell Hammett novel. No wonder Roger Ebert called “The Maltese Falcon” one of the greatest films of all time.

Ebert also said that the plot of this picture is the last thing you think about. (And I thought it was only me who had difficulty following the story…) What matters, what makes “The Maltese Falcon” worth watching again and again, are the stand-alone scenes. You hardly care what’s come before, or what’s coming next, you’re so caught up in the perfect moment.

Bogey’s classic line:  “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” Wish I could say that the way he does, and mean it. Heck, he’s even plausible when he wants to talk about the bird.

 

“The movie is essentially,” Ebert noted, “a series of conversations punctuated by brief, violent interludes. It’s all style. It isn’t violence or chases, but the way the actors look, move, speak, and embody their characters.”

Think about San Francisco and you think about Sam Spade. The shabby office with the frosted glass door. The city streets by night. I’ve walked that town with key scenes in my head, from the corner of Burritt Alley and Bush Street, where Spade’s partner was done in (there’s actually a plaque to mark the spot) to the fancier locales around Union Square. I’ve even stayed in Joel Cairo’s hotel, the Belvedere (now the Monaco, a Klimpton property with a delightful restaurant).

Indelible.

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