The Original Film Noir

Published in 1930, Dashiell Hammett's detective story The Maltese Falcon would be adapted for cinema three times. The first was a pre-Production Code film in 1931, later buried by studios for its "lewd" content. In 1936, Bette Davis starred in the badly reviewed, loose adaptation Satan Met a Lady, with Davis ultimately calling it "junk". But in 1941, the novel was adapted for a third time by first-time writer-director John Huston. Leaving out the seediness of the 1931 version and closely following the tone of Hammett's original story, Huston's version became a classic. The Maltese Falcon has since been recognised as one of the most influential American films ever made. It's frequently cited as the first major film noir and would establish Humphrey Bogart as one of Hollywood's leading stars. To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Showroom Cinema is excited to be bringing The Maltese Falcon back to the big screen.

Bogart stars as Sam Spade, a cool, cynical private detective in San Francisco. When Spade takes on a case which involves three eccentric villains, he becomes tangled in a plot of lies, deceit and murder, all surrounding a small figurine known as the Maltese Falcon. Like the hard-boiled detective stories of Raymond Chandler and James O'Hara, Dashiell Hammett's novel features a twisty, complex plot which Huston faithfully adapts. The film focuses on Bogart as Spade, a role that would define his performances for the rest of his life in classics like Casablanca (1942) and The African Queen (1951). Bogart also starred in The Big Sleep (1946), an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel. His portrayal of cold, tough-talking anti-heroes would go on to define the unsentimental characters at the heart of film noir.

After 80 years, The Maltese Falcon remains an incredible example in style and character. The cinematography by Arthur Edeson is particularly noteworthy; look out for an unbroken seven-minute take that shows the thought put into camera set-up and composition. It is also a film distinctly of its time: like most film noir, the Depression looms heavily, alongside the oncoming war. The Maltese Falcon follows the Showroom's recent season of independent Hollywood films from 1971, a group of films that highlighted the counterculture of the time. We're very excited to continue to bring classic movies back to the big screen, and for them to find new generations of audiences. 

The Maltese Falcon will be screening at the Showroom Cinema from Friday 8 October. Tickets are on sale now.

This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on Thursday 30 September 2021.


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