Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week’s Fathom/TCM classic film in theaters is ‘The Maltese Falcon. You can see it Sunday, February 21, and Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 2 and 7 p.m. in several Cinemark and Megaplex theaters around the valley and the state (and, in the case of Cinemark, around the country).

This has been quite a film cycle for fans of classic movies, with two John Huston-Humphrey Bogart classics to see in a four-week period — “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” last month, and now “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), which marked screenwriter Huston’s directing debut and made an A-list star of Bogart.

Based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 detective novel (originally serialized in a magazine), the film set the pace for film noir thrillers that followed, with Huston making wonderful use of shadow and light with stunning black-and-white cinematography, and off-kilter camera angles that rival “Citizen Kane.”


Humphrey Bogart, left, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet

Bogart stars as San Francisco private investigator Sam Spade, whose partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) is killed early on, and Spade is none too happy about it. He didn’t have much love for Archer — not as much as he once had for Archer’s wife (Gladys George) — but, as these things go, no one’s going to kill his partner on his watch and get away with it.

What follows is a complex tale of several unsavory characters trying to locate the title artifact, “a black figure of a bird,” as it is described by oily Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre).

Also after the falcon statue are Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), his henchman Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) and the film’s femme fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor).  Throw in cops Lt. Dundy (Barton MacLane) and Det. Tom Polhaus (Ward Bond), and Spade is kept quite busy, juggling criminal activity with his own sense or morality and outrage.


   Lobby Card with Peter Lorre, left, and Humphrey Bogart.

“The Maltese Falcon” is a remake (this was the third version), and has been parodied several times, but Huston’s film is singular in its appeal, with snappy dialogue from several characters, plot twists galore and a variety of characters that are great fun to watch.

This is a rare opportunity too see the film as it was intended to be seen, and with digital restoration, more gleamingly gorgeous than it was when it first played in theaters during World War II.