The Maltese Falcon (1941 Film)

Director's Influence on The Maltese Falcon (1941 Film)

John Huston’s assured direction of this adaptation of Dashiel Hammett's book, which had already been adapted into an unsuccessful film 10 years earlier, is what makes The Maltese Falcon so noteworthy. Huston's first film, The Maltese Falcon starred iconic actors Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Mary Astor and instantly became a game-changing film, perhaps the first major American film noir.

While the first adaptation of Hammett's novel predated the Hays Code standards for censorship, thus making it a somewhat more faithful adaptation of the book, Huston's 1941 remake became an instant hit, far surpassing its predecessor. In addition to directing the film, Huston also wrote the screenplay for which he received an Oscar nomination. John Huston was noted for having planned each shot of the film meticulously before filming even started, exhibiting a methodical commitment not only to his vision of the film, but to maintaining the integrity and professionalism of the film's schedule. His detail-oriented preparation ensured that the film had a strong and deliberate visual style, in addition to ensuring that his team stayed on the clock and within its budget. He also wrote a very specific script—with much of the dialogue coming directly from the original novel—and shot the film in sequence.

Huston's direction of The Maltese Falcon is also unique in its innovative camera angles, overseen by director of photography Arthur Edeson. Many shots are shot from low to the ground, and there are several long, uninterrupted shots. Huston built suspense with his innovative approach to photography. A stunning debut, The Maltese Falcon put John Huston on the map, setting him up for many years of success in Hollywood. In Huston's obituary in The New York Times, Peter B. Flint wrote, "The compelling 1941 movie is considered by many critics to be the best detective thriller ever filmed." This is in no small part due to Huston's expert touch.