The Maltese Falcon (1941 Film)

The Maltese Falcon (1941 Film) Study Guide

The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 film noir based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. It was directed by John Huston and was his directorial debut. The film follows the story of a San Francisco private detective named Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart) and his dealings with three unscrupulous adventurers, all of whom are trying to obtain a valuable jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.

The author of the original novel, Hammett, worked for a time as a private detective for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in San Francisco, and used his own birth name, "Samuel," for his story's protagonist. Despite the biographical overlaps, Hammett called Sam a "dream man" with "no original" indicating that the detective was a work of fiction and in no way autobiographical. Hammett did draw on his years with Pinkerton Detective Agency as inspiration for some of the other characters in The Maltese Falcon.

The 1941 film is the third film version of the novel. Humphrey Bogart was not the first choice for the role of Sam Spade, but accepted it quickly, something for which John Huston was always grateful, and their collaboration paved the way for a lifelong friendship. Bogart's performance became the archetypical example of a film noir private eye, and it earned him instant acclaim. The film is widely considered the first major film noir, and it received three Academy Award nominations including one for first-time director John Huston.