The Maltese Falcon – Denny Ledger’s Take

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John Huston, who had worked his way up through the writing ranks of more than one studio, was finally given a shot at directing in 1941. The picture he wanted to make was The Maltese Falcon, and that was perfect as far as Warner Bros. was concerned.

The novel, written by Dashiell Hammett, and itself coming from a serialization in Black Mask ‘pulp’ magazine, had been purchased a decade before, and had already been made twice before.

The novel was published on February 14th, 1930, and initially Paramount had considered purchasing the film rights, however, it was Warner Bros. who completed the deal, and for $8,500 they purchased the rights from Alfred A. Knopt on June 23rd, 1930.

Less than a year later, a film adaptation would be released. Originally titled Woman of the World, but changing back to The Maltese Falcon, the film would star Richard Cortez as Sam Spade, with Roy Del Ruth directing.

Here, Spade was an annoying, smug, smart aleck playboy rather than a cynical, world weary private eye of the novel.

Hammett had no hand in the film and did not like the finished picture.

Five years later, in July 1936, a second film adaptation was made. Originally titled Money Man, it was later re titled Satan Met A Lady.

The film starred Warren Williams as Ted Shane in the Spade character, and Bette Davis as Valerie Purvis in the Miss Wonderly role. Davis would consider it, “one of the worst turkeys I ever made.”

It was a screwball comedy with the falcon now a ram’s horn. It was a commercial and critical failure. Again, Hammett did not like the picture.

A third adaptation was attempted in 1939 under the title The Clock Struck Three, however, Charlie Chan screenwriter Charles Belden had issues over writing the second half of the story. The project was abandoned.

A third adaptation was made five years later in 1941, again titled The Maltese Falcon, it was a film that at last met Hammett’s approval.

Huston’s success was in remaining as faithful as possible to the source material, as he had done with W.R. Burnett’s High Sierra, also in 1941. Huston, like Hammett, had not been impressed with the two previous film versions, and armed with a $381,000 budget, 36 days allocated for shooting, and what he would later call “the best cast I ever had,” set out to make his debut picture.

George Raft topped the proposed cast list written up by the studio for Spade, but, as fortune would have it, he would turn down the picture, not wanting to work with an unknown, inexperienced director.

Raft did not think too much of Huston, who in turn did not think much of him either.

The role went to Bogie, Huston’s preferred choice, and in their hands, Spade become the cynical, hard-boiled private eye that Hammett had written, living in an un-glamorous, amoral world, living client to client, and putting himself on the line for $25 a day plus expenses.

For the role of femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Geraldine Fitzgerald was first choice. The role, however, would go to second choice Mary Astor, who relished playing the role, calling her “a congenital liar and slightly psychopathic.”

For the role of perfumed and prissy Joel Cairo, Peter Lorre was cast.

The rest of the cast would include Bogie regulars Jerome Cowan as Spade’s partner Miles Archer and Gladys George as Iva Archer, Miles’ wife.

Barton MacLane was cast as Lt. Dundy, Ward Bond as Dundy’s partner, detective Tom Polhaus. Elisha Cook Jr. was cast as the gunsel Wilmer and Lee Patrick as Spade’s trusty secretary Effie Perine.

There was also a screen debut for 61-year-old, 285-pound British stage actor and veteran of Broadway, Sydney Greenstreet, as Kasper Gutman, marking the first of several films with both Bogie and Lorre. There was even room for Huston’s father, Walter Huston, as Captain Jacobi of the ill-fated ship ‘La Paloma’, who delivers the falcon to Spade’s office, only to drop dead from gunshot wounds.

The film opens with an explanation of the backstory to the black bird:

In 1539, the Knights Templar of Malta, paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels- – – – – but pirates seized the galley carrying this priceless token and the fate of the Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day.

Spade and Archer are a private detective service in San Francisco. A new client, Miss Wonderly (aka Brigid O’Shaughnessy), asks Spade to track down the seducer (called Floyd Thursby) of her, as we later find out, non-existent sister, Corinne. In actuality, she wants him to trail and kill a rival hunter of a rare artifact she is tracking. Miles enters and agrees to take the case personally, and is promptly killed, and Spade is thrown into the hunt for the infamous Maltese Falcon, introduced in turn to Cairo, Gutman and co. along the way.

The film is a commentary on the greed of man, a probing character study, and the cast are equal to it, headed by the cynical Spade, whose strong code of ethics are the only thing keeping him on the level.

In part, the attention to detail from the book came from the performances of the actors. From Bogie, rolling his own cigarettes and facial tics, Lorre fiddling with his cane. Greenstreet on the other hand, does very little, but sit motionless, watching and listening. The camera spends a good deal of time focused on the person who isn’t talking, watching reactions of the listening actor.

Spade is rightly cautious, and distrusts words, both verbal and written; he is also wary of the detectives Dundy and Polhaus, keeping them at arm’s length with a mixture of respect and distrust.

Ultimately though, Spade’s greatest nemesis is himself.

He set out to avenge his partner’s death, and he achieves just that, but only just, as his own greed for the black bird spills over, and when he finally gets the bird, brought in by captain Jacobi, he squeezes Effie’s arm, not noticing even when she tells him ‘you’re hurting me’, and again at the climax where he along with Brigid, Cairo, and Gutman lustily unwrap the prized item in his apartment.

His weakness for Bridgit almost convinces him to sink to her level, but he finds a higher duty, as he explains to her, “when a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it.”

He’s supposed to; it does not mean he necessarily wants to.

He sees through Brigid’s various masks of innocence and vulnerability and sees in her what she really is: a compulsive liar, yet he still allows himself to fall for her, with it only being his code that saves him. In Brigid, as in the Falcon, she is a false prize.

While there is no ‘good guy’ in the film, far from it, Spade is the one who has our loyalties. Spade looks out only for himself, a strong character trait throughout Bogie’s work. Gutman is also self-interested, perhaps why there is a mutual liking between the two, going as far as Gutman asking him if he would join the quest for the black bird as they embark for Istanbul.

Huston filled the film with in-jokes at every available opportunity. As Spade looks down on the spot where Miles is killed, in the background on a wall we can see a poster for Bogie’s 1938 hillbilly, wrestling, musical comedy, Swing Your Lady, a film Bogie would call, “the worst picture I ever made.”

Later on in the film, as Spade walks down the streets of San Francisco, we see The Bailey Theatre in the background, and the film they are showing is The Great Lie, a film that starred Astor. Spade then walks past another theater showing The Girl from Albany, not a real picture, but an in-joke at the expense of Hal Wallis, who, for reasons undetermined, wanted to change the title to The Gent from Frisco. However, Jack Warner did not approve, and kept it as it was.

The film opened on October 4th, 1941 and was a commercial and critical success. James Agee would call the film, ‘the best private-eye melodrama ever made,’ and the film was recognized by the Academy who nominated it for three awards.

The film was up for Best Picture, Best Screenplay for Huston and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Greenstreet.

Astor for The Great Lie would be nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Sandra. In her autobiography, A Life on Film, she would say she would have rather got her award for Brigid than Sandra.

Spade is both a classic Huston and Bogie hero. He is flawed, an anti-hero living in an amoral universe, he is his own worst enemy, but who ultimately overcomes these flaws. Not all Huston protagonists would be so lucky as to get out alive, and Spade only does by the finest of margins.

As for Bogie, his Spade was wounded, cynical and romantic, if not in a traditional sense. It would be a character Bogie would play again and again over the coming years as he rose to the top Hollywood’s acting talent.

*Take 2 is a regular feature on The Bogie Film Blog where other film writers and enthusiasts wax philosophic on their favorite Bogie Films!  Denny Ledger is the author of the new book A Reasonable Amount of Trouble: The Films of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart, which you can find on Amazon here.  For other Take 2 posts, click here.*

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The Private Detectives

For my money, there was one character type that Bogart was born to play. Gangster? Convict? Escaped Convict? Ex-pat loner struggling against the Axis powers? Naw. For me, no one could play a Private Detective wrapped up inside a Film Noir nearly as well as Bogie. Guns, dangerous women, back alley crooks, illicit affairs, hand rolled cigarettes – Bogart could juggle them all with laid back ease.

For a great breakdown of the history behind the “whys” and “hows” of Bogart’s historical place within Classic Hollywood as a Film Noir detective, you should definitely check out Sheri Chinen Biesen’s book Blackout. Not only is it a wonderful primer on Film Noir, but it goes into great detail about Biesen’s belief that Bogart’s age, wartime rationing, and a lack of leading men in Hollywood led to Hollywood’s greatest icon getting the chance to play characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

It’s kind of crazy to consider how few private eye films Bogart made considering how much he’s associated with the genre. Only two officially – but I throw in three more “Honorary Mentions” because I think you can get a good Bogie detective fix from them if you really need to! Let me know if you disagree.

The Private Detectives

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

This is the stuff that Film Noir dreams are made of.

Warner Brother’s originally assigned George Raft to the role of Sam Spade – not because they really wanted him for the role, but because they wanted Henry Fonda for another film and Fonda worked for Twentieth Century Fox. So, follow this . . . Raft didn’t want to do The Maltese Falcon. He supposedly hated the script and didn’t want to work with first time Director John Huston. (Huston didn’t want him either. Bogart was always Huston’s first choice.) So Warner Brothers, knowing that Raft would balk at Falcon, gave him the option of going on ‘suspension’ so that he could go over to Fox and Fonda could come over to Warner Brothers. Guess who’s left to reap the benefits? Mr. Bogart.

Playing the cynical and embittered Private Detective, Sam Spade. A beautiful femme fatale hires him for a case. His partner gets killed. Shady characters and gun play abound. And it all orbits around a priceless statue that has the ability to make people lose their scruples about going down some dark paths.

Bogart’s interactions with Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr. show a man who seems to be in complete control of every emotion and physicality in an actor’s toolbox, and there’s a level of confidence on display that I don’t think Bogart hit so highly in any of his previous films.

Add in Director Huston, and I cannot see how this film could have been anything less than a classic.

You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Big Sleep – 1946

I’m ready to declare this the coolest Bogart role in his filmography.  Private Eye Philip Marlowe is king.

In Philip Marlowe we get an über playful Bogart as he smiles, quips, flirts, and drinks his way out of every situation. The sunglassed bookstore nerd . . . the prank phone call to the police where he and Bacall switch roles so fast that they end up playing their own parents . . . the way Bogart uses his charm more powerfully than his gun against the bad guys . . .  This was a role that Bogart was born to play. He carries this film and makes it look easy. How can you keep from rooting for a guy who wants the truth above everything else, including his own life?

This film, and especially Bogart’s performance, is remarkable. The Big Sleep is my favorite Film Noir of all time. (And no, it doesn’t matter to me that all of the plot isn’t laid bare by the end – real life is messy and mysterious, so why can’t this film be as well?)

You can read my original write up on the film here. You can also read my write up on the pre-release edit of the film from the year before here.

Honorary Mentions

All Through the Night – 1942

Bogart plays Gloves Donahue, a New York city racketeer that has to track down the man/men who murdered his favorite cheesecake baker. Yes, he’s a gangster. Yes, the bad guys are Nazis. But there’s quite a bit of private eye-like atmosphere in this comedic gangster spoof. Clues are followed. Bogie goes undercover. Peter Lorre is skulking around. Bogart has to work with, and around, the police. The femme fatale is beautiful and potentially dangerous. It’s in my top three favorite Bogart films, so check it out!

You can read my original write up on the film here.

Dead Reckoning – 1947

Bogart might be playing paratrooper Captain ‘Rip’ Murdock, but this film is all noir as Bogart falls away from the military man persona and quickly takes on the air of a hardened detective. Bogart narrates the viewer through the story, walking us along as Murdock pieces together a military buddy’s disappearance.

Of note is one particular scene that plays opposite of our typical expectations for Bogart as he sits and listens to a nightclub singer. This might be the first film I’ve ever seen where we get the Bogie drinks while the femme fatale sings’ scene, and Bogart shows no interest whatsoever in the woman. In fact, he spends most of the song looking down at his drink, ignoring Lizabeth Scott’s suggestive glances. Out of the many movies where Bogart’s played through this scenario, has there ever been another one where he shows such little interest?

There are so many great long shots of Bogart sitting, thinking, lying in bed, and drinking, that if nothing else, I feel like Director John Cromwell should be thanked for his work towards recording Bogart’s great visage for posterity!  If the entire movie had been the above shot for two hours, I would probably have still enjoyed it!

You can read my original write up of the film here.

The Enforcer – 1951

Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson. Running on little sleep and next to no time,Ferguson and his right hand man, Captain Frank Nelson (Roy Roberts), are suddenly faced with a ticking clock. Ferguson has to be in court within eight hours, and his main piece of evidence against the ringleader of a hit man crew is no longer breathing. But wasn’t there something he missed? Some small piece of evidence that’s lurking in the dark recesses of his mind? Something that he didn’t think he’d need to remember?

Even though he’s on the government payroll, Bogart certainly goes on a Film Noir journey that feels every bit as lowdown and seedy as the first two films mentioned in this post. I think this one’s a real hidden gem that a lot of people haven’t seen, and it’s well worth a watch!

You can read my original write up on the film here.

*This post is another write up in the Character Reference series on The Bogie Film Blog where we break down some of Bogart’s most well known genres and character types. You can read the rest of the entries here.*

 

 

Barton MacLane

MacLane

Birth Name: Ernest Barton MacLane

Date of Birth: December 25, 1902

Date of Death: January 1, 1969

Number of Films Barton MacLane Made with Humphrey Bogart: 6

Barton MacLane is a memorable guy. Large, gruff, and generally projecting a face that makes you assume that his stomach has been sour for several hours, MacLane was a staple tough guy in Hollywood films and television for five decades.

While many recognize MacLane from his role as Lieutenant MacBride in the Torchy film series, or his extended run as General Peterson on I Dream of Jeannie, I would guess that most casual Classic Film fans know him from his work alongside of Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

MacLane has been an actor that I’ve long planned on placing into The Usual Suspects. While most of his characters in Bogart films – either crooks or cops – tend to have the same gruff demeanor and bleak outlook on life, MacLane is one of those actors that made a long and successful career out of playing exactly the man you’d expect him to be based on his appearance.

That’s not to say that MacLane didn’t have a few surprises up his sleeve. Yes, he played college football, but did you also know that he could play the violin? Sure he played a cowboy for film and television and lived up to that Western persona as he worked his own cattle ranch in his down time, but did you know that he also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, wrote and performed on Broadway, and was married to the talented and beautiful actress Charlotte Wynters?

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Regardless of how you might know Barton MacLane, the one thing I know for sure is that he was never miscast in a Bogie film. Gangster or Detective. Prison Guard or Conman. MacLane elevated every film he starred in with his commanding presence and his well-honed acting skills. (Plus, he and Bogart were both Christmas babies!) So today we welcome Barton MacLane into The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

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MacLane plays racketeer Al Kruger, the man who tries to lure Edward G. Robinson into a life of crime after a scandalous dismissal from the police force. Despite the fact that the movie might not be the best, this is perhaps MacLane’s most likable role in a Bogart film. Playing “the thinking man’s gangster,” MacLane is able to elicit sympathy from both the film’s hero (Robinson) and the tough-guy gangster (Bogart) who tries so desperately to convince him that Robinson is a no good double dealer. If he’d only listened to Bogart! Why, Al, why? Definitely my favorite MacLane role on this list.

You can read my original post on the film here.

San Quentin – 1937

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MacLane plays prison guard Lieutenant Druggin who just wants to be the captain of the yard if not for Pat O’Brien’s meddling ways. MacLane’s Druggin wants hard-nosed justice. Prisoners should be put in their places, forcefully, the moment that they step out of line. O’Brien’s dashing prison captain believes in a much more subtle approach – respecting the prisoners as men in their own rights who deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s a role that calls for the gruffest and sourest that MacLane has to offer, and he’s perfectly cast in the film.

You can read my original post on the film here.

High Sierra – 1941

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MacLane plays Jake, the right hand man to Donald MacBride who plays the ailing ringleader of Bogart’s robbery crew. The part is a bit smaller than the previous two in his Bogie filmography, but MacLane does well as he spends his time giving Bogart the suspicious eye while trying to muscle in on MacBride’s soon-to-be open position.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

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MacLane plays Lieutenant of Detectives Dundy in a semi-friendly role to Bogart’s private detective, Sam Spade. Most of the film’s sparse comic relief comes from MacLane’s one-step-behind pursuit of Bogart, and both men seem to be enjoying their time on screen together as they appear to be on the verge of smiling at each other’s faux tough guy antics. Probably MacLane’s most well know Classic Film, his perfectly cast supporting role only adds to the iconic status of this movie.

You can read my original post on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

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MacLane plays Marty Callahan, one of Bogart’s rival gangsters that ends up coming to help when it’s time to punch some Nazis. MacLane’s best moments in this small role come when he has to deal with Bogart’s frazzled mother as she storms his nightclub looking for the murderer of a local baker. Again, not a huge role, but MacLane’s involvement is just another piece of this great ensemble cast that makes the film great.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre –1948

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MacLane plays McCormick, a less-than-reputable foreman who cheats Bogart and Tim Holt out of some very hard earned wages. It’s a chance for MacLane to be a bit more blowhard, and a bit less tough than how we usually see him in the rest of his Bogart filmography, and it all leads to a great great bar fight between MacLane, Bogart, and Holt that’s brutal, bloody, and incredibly satisfying when it comes to enacting revenge on the man who stole their paychecks!

You can read my original post on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing section of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can read the rest of the write ups here.*

The Maltese Falcon

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Birth Name: The Maltese Falcon

Date of Birth:  October 18, 1941

Date of Death: STILL OUT THERE SOMEWHERE…LEADING MEN AND WOMEN DOWN A DANGEROUS ROAD OF GREED AND DESIRE…

Number of Films that The Maltese Falcon Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.” – Kasper Gutman, The Maltese Falcon

To be fair, there are more than one of those little beauties out there. Sydney Greenstreet marred one with his pen knife for the film. Several extras were made of varying weights for backups. Bogart supposedly even dropped one and dented the tail. Several years ago, one came back into the spotlight when Leonardo DiCaprio purchased it at auction for a little over $300,000. (Nearly the original budget of the film.)

Oh, I knew that the Falcon made a quick cameo in 1945’s Conflict as a little nod to the reunion of Bogart and Greenstreet, but imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across its presence in yet another film! A film that I’d seen at least a dozen times! A film that is in my Top 5 Bogie favorites! How could I have been so blind?

Two appearances would have been enough to warrant an entry into “The Usual Suspects,” but three makes its inauguration a must. So today, we welcome The Maltese Falcon into the pantheon of The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

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This is where it all began. The world’s greatest MacGuffin brings together a small crew of the world’s most nefarious deal makers and a little known detective named Sam Spade.

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s the object of desire that men and women will kill for. It’s the treasure worth chasing all over the world until there’s not a cent left in your pockets.

In my dreams, I like to imagine that Kasper “The Fatman” Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy are all still out there, desperately scheming for one last chance to get the bird… Not far behind is Sam Spade, smirking and shaking his head. Will they never learn?

You can read my original post on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

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I mean . . . that can’t really be what I think it is lurking in the shadows next to Peter Lorre, can it?

I don’t know what to think here. I’ve seen this movie so often and I’ve never noticed this shadow before. The film only came out about three months after The Maltese Falcon. Is that enough time to have slipped in a cameo? Next to Peter Lorre, the man who played Joel Cairo no less?!?

I’ve googled, read, searched, and even listened to the director’s commentary from Vincent Sherman and NO ONE MENTIONS IT!

What are the odds? I know, I know. You’re going to tell me that it’s more than likely a massive coincidence. But here’s the thing about coincidences, see? When the Falcon’s involved – there ain’t no coincidences. There’s only desperate people with desperate minds. . .

You can read my original post on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

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Yes, he seems to have grown an inch or two and lost a little bit of weight, but supposedly that’s The Maltese Falcon looming large behind Bogart in this murder mystery reunion with Sydney Greenstreet. He’s got his talons deep into them, ya see? He ain’t gonna let go for nothin’!

You can read my original post on the film here!

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature on the blog where we discuss some of Bogart’s more frequent collaborators. When I post, you’ll take it, and you’ll like it! You can read the other entries here.*

Sydney Greenstreet

Greenstreet Casablanca

Birth Name: Sydney Hughes Greenstreet

Birthdate: December 27, 1879

Date of Death: January 18, 1954

Number of Films Sydney Greenstreet made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Actor

The son of a leather merchant, Sydney Greenstreet spent some time working in both the tea industry and a brewery before finally finding his calling on the stage in England as the villain in an adaption of a Sherlock Holmes play. Adept at comedy, musicals, and Shakespeare, Greenstreet worked in both Europe and America, holding out against the call from Hollywood until he finally accepted the role of Kaspar “The Fat Man” Gutman in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon at the age of 61.

It’s pretty astonishing to consider that Gutman was Greenstreets first film role, as he seems just as comfortable in front of the camera as he supposedly was on the stage. I’m incredibly jealous of all the audiences that got to see him live and in person for years before he finally gave in to Tinsel Town’s beckoning and headed west. From his numerous pairings with Peter Lorre to his five iconic roles with Bogart, I firmly believe that there hasn’t been a big-man actor with such a commanding presence onscreen since Greenstreet’s last film over 60 years ago.

Did they really base the character of The Kingpin from Daredevil comics on Greenstreet? Was George Lucas actually inspired to model Jabba the Hut after the 300+ pound actor? Hollywood myth and legend says so, and I’m inclined to believe it because Greenstreet was certainly worthy of every praise and accolade that came his way!

This entry into “The Usual Suspects” portion of the Bogie Film Blog is long overdue, and doggone it, I think I’m going to pop in Passage to Marseille tonight just to get another dose of my favorite cinematic big man.

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

Maltese Falcon Greenstreet

Greenstreet plays Kaspar “The Fat Man” Gutman, the treasure seeking heavy that’s following the falcon around the globe. What an incredible film debut! Greenstreet steals nearly every scene that he’s in with his amazing laugh and exuberant confidence. His constant amusement over Bogart’s confusion is wonderful, and it’s a real shame that it took so long to get this man to the big screen, “By gad!” The scene where he turns on his henchman Wilmer is so painfully funny and well done that it might be my favorite bit from all of his films. A villain who so believably loves life while committing dastardly crimes at the same time is the best kind of bad guy a film could ever hope for. Greenstreet also reprised his role numerous times for radio adaptions of the film, which you can check out here and here. You can read my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

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Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the film during a tavern scene as background players to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans. Whether the scene was cut out from the film or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible. Is the film still worth a watch? You bet! Bette Davis is always worth spending an evening with! Just don’t get your hopes up for this superstar cameo that doesn’t deliver! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942

Greenstreet Bogart Astor

Greenstreet plays the cagey Dr. Lorenz, a passenger who seems to have untoward intentions as he shares an oceanic voyage with Bogart and Mary Astor. What I really loved about Greenstreet here is that his character is an incredibly wealthy world traveler, meaning Greenstreet is dressed to the nines and drenched with a slightly more authentic sophistication than he was in The Maltese Falcon. One of my all-time favorite Greenstreet-Bogart scenes occurs when Greenstreet needles Bogart’s history out of him with an endless supply of booze. Any classic Bogart film has at least one drunk Bogie scene in it. Adding Greenstreet into the mix just makes it all the better! Greenstreet reprised his role for a radio adaption, and you can read my original write up on the film here.

Casablanca – 1942

Greenstreet Casa 2

Greenstreet plays Signor Ferrari, Bogart’s main nightclub competitor in Casablanca. Whenever I consider this film from memory, Bogart and Greenstreet always seem like enemies. But every time I view it, I’m reminded that these guys might actually be pretty decent friends – maybe even playing a few games of after-hours chess over drinks when curfew kicks in. Just consider for a moment that Blaine entrusts his entire staff, including Sam, into Ferrari’s hands at the end of the film on nothing more than a handshake deal! That’s got to be a great show of faith in a man who’s supposedly trying to beat you at your own game. It’s an amazing testament to Greenstreet’s presence here that most casual fans seem to remember this as his signature role, even though his part isn’t that big! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Passage to Marseille – 1942

Passage Greenstreet

Greenstreet plays French officer Major Duval, who happens to be traveling on a boat with a number of recently escaped french convicts trying to get to England as word breaks that Germany now occupies France. The ever-so-snarky Major Duval doesn’t feel very patriotic to his homeland, and can’t get back to France quickly enough to show his support to the Nazis as he turns over the prisoners to the proper authorities. The real story in the cast here is the alliance between Bogart and Peter Lorre as they get to play outright friends as opposed to enemies or even tense allies, but Greentstreet’s presence certainly makes this one an underappreciated classic! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

Bogart and Sydney in Conflict

Greenstreet plays psychologist Dr. Mark Hamilton, family friend to Bogart’s murderous Dick Mason. How great is it to not only see Greenstreet play a good guy in a Bogart film, but to see them actually chum around a bit before things get tense? Greenstreet is so good as the warm and gregarious Dr. Hamilton that you just want to give the big guy a hug. He seems truly happy in the role, and when you view the film for the second and third times, it’s a lot of fun to see him subtly tipping his hat towards the twist ending. Definitely a must see collaboration between Bogart and Greenstreet! You can read my original write up on the film here.

-“The Usual Suspects” is an ongoing feature at the Bogie Film Blog where we dive a tad bit deeper into some of Bogart’s most recurring collaborators. You can find the rest of the posts here.-

Mary Astor

Astor Bogart Maltese Falcon 3Birth Name: Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke

Birth: May 3, 1906

Death: September 25, 1987

Number of Films Mary Astor Made with Humphrey Bogart: 2

The Lowdown

Born and raised in Quincy, Illinois, Mary Astor was groomed by her parents from a very early age to be a star. It only took a series of beauty pageants to get her noticed by a Hollywood agent who signed her to a contract that had her doing bit parts in silent films starting at the age of only fourteen.

After slowly building up to a solid and very successful career, Astor seemed to peak in 1941 when she won an Oscar for her role in The Great Lie, the same year that she appeared in the cinema classic The Maltese Falcon alongside of Humphrey Bogart. Astor’s life was apparently a troubled one though, filled with affairs, divorces, the death of a husband, depression, a suicide attempt, and a heart ailment.

What I loved about her two films with Bogart was the way that she was able to distinguish two characters that, at first glance, seem to share so much in common. One is a sultry, dangerous, femme fatale. The other is a slightly naïve gal in over her head and forced to put on a ruse in order to save someone she loves. Yet, both start out as women of mystery, and we don’t have any idea whose side they’re really on until the plot has finally resolved itself.

And to be honest, this whole write up is just an excuse to post the pic below from Across the Pacific. If I ever bumped into that gal on a boat and the only other man aboard was Sydney Greenstreet – well, it quickly becomes apparent how easily someone could fall for Astor in real life or on screen.

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

Astor Bogart Falcon 2

Astor plays femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the woman who pulls Bogart into the danger and mystery surrounding the small, but priceless, falcon statuette. According to a few different bios and websites, Director Huston had Astor run around the set before takes in order to lend a constant breathless quality to her performance. After re-watching this film for the umpteenth time, I have to say that it certainly seems to be true and it works well for her performance. Astor’s reputation as a woman who liked to spend time with lots of different men supposedly helped create a lot of excitement for this one when it came out. While that aspect might be lost on modern day viewers, Astor is still amazing in the role – hitting all the right notes and keeping the audience’s sympathies, despite a string of nonstop lies and manipulations. I saw this one before Across the Pacific, and I have to admit that it took me a few viewings of Pacific to forgive her for the way that she treats Bogart in Falcon. I think it’s a testament to her talent that she’s so good and playing someone so bad. Astor also reprised her role as Brigid on a few different radio broadcasts alongside of Bogart and Greenstreet. You can read my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

Regardless of what the filmographies may say, Astor’s not in this one! Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene to add a little in-joke for Falcon fans. Whether the scene was cut from the film, or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942

Greenstreet Bogart Astor

Reteaming with Director John Huston, Bogart, and Sydney Greenstreet, Astor plays Alberta Marlow, the mysterious woman who’s sailing with Bogart and Greenstreet through the Panama Canal on their way to Asia. I really, really loved Astor here, even more than in The Maltese Falcon. She gorgeous, funny, flirtatious, and so wonderfully girl-next-door-ish that I found it much easier to believe that Bogart would fall in love with her. Again, Astor reprised her role alongside of Bogart and Greenstreet on the radio. Good grief, just the scene from the pic above brings me so much joy that even if this film had been awful, the chemistry between these three stars would have been worth the effort! You can read my original write up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing section of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can read the rest of the write ups here.*

The Screen Guild Theater Presents: The Maltese Falcon – 1943

SGT Maltese Falcon

My Review

—A Poor Adaption Leads to a Decent Climax—

Radio Fixes 2 out of 5 radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

For my Maltese Falcon synopsis, you can read my original write up on the film here. And if you really want to try and follow the plot in this heavily condensed radio version of the story, you’d better watch the film first, or you’ll be lost!

What I Thought

I was really looking forward to listening to this broadcast after writing up the 1946 Academy Award Theater Presents: The Maltese Falcon last week. I mean, this version had to be better, right? It’s adds Peter Lorre into the mix, reprising his role as Joel Cairo! While the still unknown radio player that portrayed Cairo in last week’s version was good, no one can stand alongside of Lorre and look good, right?

Hmmm.

This broadcast was a bit of a mess. Lorre was not only hardly used, but his best scene from the film, the one where they first meet and Lorre wants to search Bogart’s office, isn’t even in the broadcast! It’s completely cut out and only briefly referenced when Sam Spade tells Brigid O’Shaughnessy that he knows Cairo. Ugh. Lorre was right there! That would have been some easy magic to recreate!

The other big change from the show that I reviewed last week is that this version of the script uses a radio announcer to narrate the story rather than Sam Spade himself. This means that there’s much less Bogart. For some reason, it also means that any action from first ¾ of the story is summed up in the narration rather than heard, as the broadcast steamrolls past any actual plot to get us to the very well written final scene between Spade, O’Shaughnessy, Kaspar Gutman, and Joel Cairo. If you can make it through the first 20 minutes of bland dialogue, that final scene is worth a listen, but if I were you, I’d skip right to it.

In an interesting twist on the 1941 film, one of the four main characters ends up dead at the end of this version. Even considering that interesting changeup, the script still holds true to its lackluster form and we don’t actually get to ‘witness’ it happen . . .

The Bogart Factor

To be honest, I actually enjoyed this version of Bogart’s performance better. He seems to have slipped into character a little bit more and he doesn’t sound like he’s reading his lines quite as much as he does in the later 1946 version. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough script coherence or decent direction for me to recommend this show fully. This one’s just for Bogart completists.

The Cast

Mary Astor reprises her role from the film as the femme fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Unlike the 1946 radio version, Astor seems much less interested in performing here and if I hadn’t been told that it was Astor, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. She’s not bad, but compared to the film and the 1946 radio broadcast, she just seems flat.

Sydney Greenstreet reprises the role of Kaspar Gutman, the “fat man” who’s chasing the bird around the world. Even in the last scene where it seems that the reins are finally taken off of the actors, his performance seems caged compared to the 1946 version. The laugh is there, but little else. It’s not his fault though, the script just offers him nothing to work with.

In the biggest disappointment of all, Peter Lorre reprises his role as Joel Cairo, one of the criminals chasing after the bird, only to be relegated to the sidelines for the entire show. Although, saying that he’s “relegated to the sidelines” would be a generous metaphor to use, and I might better say that he’s more of a third string waterboy in the storyline as his part is miniscule and it doesn’t even sound like they let him stand near the microphone!

Classic Bogie Moment

He does his best, but all of the bite that Sam Spade has in the film is taken away when so much of his dialogue is spent recapping action instead of showing it. That being said, Bogart really does light up when he gets to bounce his performance off of Greenstreet, and with only a limited number of performances shared by the two greats, I’ll take what I can get. Bogart again gives 100% to this role, even if it is just a sad and condensed version of the classic film.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve got nothing else to listen to in the car, go for it. I might make it sound a little worse than it is, but the 1946 version is definitely a step up!