Classic Scene: the Maltese Falcon Reveal
the Maltese Falcon reveal
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Dir. John Huston
The Scene: Hard boiled Private Eye Sam Spade has reluctantly gathered together with the three miscreants who have plagued him the entire movie. The urbane crime boss Gutman, the conniving Joel Cairo, and the femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy. What began as a case to figure out who gunned down his partner has turned into the hunt for the McGuffin he has wrapped up in his office. It is believed to be the legendary Maltese Falcon, a gold statue covered in jewels hidden underneath a coating of black enamel. Gutman diligently scrapes at the surface of the falcon statue he has been presented only to find that it is a fake. While Cairo lets out a string of insults, Gutman can only sit back and laugh that this was the fruit of all his labors. They are not deterred for long as the two put aside their differences and head off to find another lead on the mysterious bird. With Gutman and Cairo gone, Spade springs into the plan he had all along and alerts the police to their schemes and reveals to Brigid that he knows she killed his partner. Despite any feelings he may have, letting a murderer go is simply bad for business. As the police take the falcon into evidence an officer asks what it is and Sam Spade’s wry answer is “the stuff that dreams are made of.”
The Deconstruction: Credited as the first film noir, the Maltese Falcon is famous for a plot that starts simple but twists and turns along the way. Our world weary protagonist Sam Spade finds himself tossed around as a case to find out who murdered his partner becomes a treasure hunt that he is caught in the middle of. A lesser actor may have struggled playing such a cool and complex character, but Humphrey Bogart turned in the performance which set him on the path to Hollywood stardom. Sharing the screen with Bogart is Sydney Greenstreet in his film debut, the comedian and stage performer displays such an amazing screen presence you would not be faulted for believing he was a veteran of the silver screen. In this famed scene, he gets to act alongside film icon Peter Lorre, and the two displayed such a chemistry they were often teamed together in many projects. Mary Astor makes history as the first femme fatale of film noir, and pioneered the archetype that so many actresses who followed would emulate. The Maltese Falcon was the directorial debut of John Huston, who would go on to be one of the great filmmakers, and despite his newcomer status, Huston directed this scene like a pro. Not only was he able to draw terrific performances from his cast, but everything was timed out perfectly; from the delivery of the falcon to the aftermath when it was discovered to be a fraud.
Best Bit: Bogart’s confrontation of Mary Astor’s Brigid is delivered perfectly. The grizzled antihero rants that he needs to push aside any feelings he may have for her, because he can’t let the woman who murdered his partner get away. He delivers his rant with the conviction of a man who has been bottling everything up and now he can finally let it out.