The Maltese Falcon (1931)
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Cast: Bebe Daniels, Ricardo Cortez, Dudley Digges
Synopsis: A lovely dame with dangerous lies employs the services of a private detective, who is quickly caught up in the mystery and intrigue of a statuette known as the Maltese Falcon.
This, the original movie version of Dashiell Hammett’s story, was far better than I expected, and stands up well against its more famous remake. Ricardo Cortez, in a smooth, assured performance is more of a ladies man and a little more unprincipled than Bogart’s version (he is having an affair with his partner’s wife) which adds a little spice to what is still less of a rounded character than the 1941 version.
Dudley Digges and Oscar Matieson are terrific as Gutman and Cairo respectively. Lorre’s version of Cairo is virtually a carbon-copy of Matieson’s, while Digges’ Caspar Gutman is much sleazier than Sidney Greenstreet’s.
It’s a shame that this movie has been overshadowed by the 1941 version, because it deserves a wider audience. For the early-talkie period, the performances are excellent throughout, and the atmosphere of greed and desperation in this version are equal to that in the 1941 film. Bogie, however, wouldn’t have been found dead in those polka-dot pyjamas!
Don’t pass up the chance to view this movie – you won’t be disappointed.
(Reviewed 1st April 2002)