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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

When an attractive woman (Mary Astor) asks for assistance from a detective (Humphrey Bogart) in locating her missing sister by following the man she ran off with, the detective's partner (Jerome Cowan) volunteers to follow the man. But when the detective is shot and minutes later, the man he was shadowing is also killed, it is only the beginning of a complicated tale of greed, deceit, honor and the "stuff dreams are made of". Based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, the directorial film debut of John Huston is one of the treasures of American cinema. Tight and to the bone, there's not a single wasted moment or shot in the entire film. It is also, quite possibly, the most impeccably cast film in Hollywood history. It's a testament to its actors (and Huston) that these are career defining performances. So much so that whenever one hears their name, it's THE MALTESE FALCON that one immediately thinks of. Astor's aging femme fatale with her air of desperation and inability to tell the truth, Peter Lorre's gardenia scented homosexual, Sydney Greenstreet's jovial but avaricious "fat man" all make indelible impressions but it's Bogart in his star making role that holds the film together. One of those rare films that seems to capture you over and over again, no matter how many times you've seen it. With Gladys George, Elisha Cook Jr., Ward Bond, Lee Patrick and Barton MacLane.

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