The Maltese Falcon (1931)

By now everyone knows that the 1941 Maltese Falcon with Bogart and Mary Astor was the third remake of the story. And when I heard about the DVD set that combined the 1931, 1936, and 1941 versions in one convenient package, I just had to buy one, completist that I am.

So: The 1931 version has Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels, and is a pretty decent film in its own right (unlike the perfectly awful 1936 version, Satan Met a Lady). Surprisingly large chunks of dialog from this one made it into the 1941 version, including early exchanges between Sam Spade (Cortez) and Ruth Wonderly (Daniels) and the famous “I like a man who likes to talk” sequence between Spade and Casper Gutman (played with wonderful oiliness by Dudley Digges).

The Wilmer character (played by Elisha Cook, Jr in 1941) was played by everybody’s favorite near-psycho, Dwight Frye, who does a lot with almost no lines whatsoever.

But how do the leads do? Surprisingly well. Ricardo Cortez , who, to be frank, was kind of a stiff in the other two movies I’ve seen him in (The Lost Zeppelin and Postal Inspector) is nicely sleazy as Sam Spade–he doesn’t exude the inner core of integrity that Bogart had in the part. And it’s refreshing to see a guy who usually played straight arrows sass the cops and lounge around nursing a drink.

And Bebe Daniels just burns up the screen. She’s easily five times as sexy as poor miscast Mary Astor. She appears in lingerie several times, has a bath scene, and when she presses herself against our hero and looks up at him and says “Help me, Mr. Spade,” well, you can bet I’d help her, even if it meant the chair.

So, to sum up: Perhaps not the classic that the 1941 version is, but a perfectly respectable film in its own right. You oughta see it, just to see Bebe Daniels. Hubba hubba!

I bought that set too after reading about it here. Actually I exchanged the Chronicles of Riddick box set my brother gave me for my birthday. I enjoyed all three versions, with this one ranking second. I didn’t quite buy Cortez as Spade though. There was a certain superficiality to the performance, like he needed one more interior level that he just didn’t or couldn’t put together. I think part of it was the goofy grin he had plastered on his face the whole time. I get that part of the fun is that Spade is enjoying himself as these madpeople whirl around him chasing the black bird but the grin came off dopey.

I’ve seen it, by the kindness of another Doper. To me, the most troubling thing was how well set-up and spacious Sam’s office was. A well-off Private Eye seems extremely unlikely, and detracts from the character.

Otto, I agree, Cortez doesn’t have the depth of Bogart in the role; there was something special about Bogart (possibly his long apprenticeship playing two-bit hoodlums). But it’s still the best-executed of the three roles I’ve seen Cortez in.

And Cal, that’s something that leaped out at me, too; how spacious and luxo his apartment was. Private dicks oughta be poor.

There was a clever bit I enjoyed: Spade gets up in the morning, wanders into the living room, and morosely starts tidying up, tossing cushions back onto the couch. No question about what happened there last night! :wink:

I think a lot of the dialogue in the classic version is straight from the book. That could be the reason.

I love the 1931 version, which supplies one of the classic phrases of the pre-code era.

Your link isn’t quite clear–which phrase are you thinking of?

I quite enjoy the '31 version (Hi, Cal) as well, and consider it a good second to the Huston version, plus Una Merkel was born just across the river from me. I also recently purchased the 3-DVD set. . . which means that I have sitting here on my shelf, taking up space, a perfectly fine solo DVD copy of the Huston version, a fairly decent “Video Yesteryear” copy of the '31 version (albeit one which was duped from the TV print so it is clunkily entitled “Dangerous Female”) and an off-air (Turner Classic Movies) recording of “Satan Met A Lady.”

Anybody want to free up my shelf space? First come, only one served.

Sir Rhosis

I saw Satan Met a Lady with no foreknowledge of what it was about and it knocked me on my ass right from the beginning because I recognized the dialogue. Holy crap, they made a comedy version of The Maltese Falcon! Of course, this turned out to be well known by film buffs, but it was a bizzarre experience coming to it cold.

The title of my link is a line from MT31: “the dame in the kimono”

Wikipedia mentions a few items which kept the film out of view from about 1936-66.

Sir Rhosis

I mentioned the three-movie set about a month ago. Like I said at the time, Falcon the First is a good, solid B movie, Lady not so much, and Falcon the Second is well deserving its top-250 placement.

Legend has it that Huston had a secretary type up the book in script format, Jack Warner found it on his (Huston’s) desk, and signed off on it. Seems improbable to me. Whatever the reason, whole pages of dialogue are lifted directly. When I read the book a couple years ago, it was like the movie playing in my head.