As the author of the screenplay, Huston made every effort to do justice, and remain faithful, to Dashiell Hammett's novel But in remaining faithful, the newest version asked audiences to accept the complicated plot at its full strength and that is where the film's main flaw occurs Names, murders, and intrigues turn up so quickly that it is extremely difficult to understand exactly what is happening in this tale of an assortment of characters in search of a fabulous jewel-encrusted statue
Probably in no other film will a viewer find a gallery of such diverse human beings whose perfect1y constructed portrayals remain permanently locked in one's memory
Mary Astor's Brigid O'Shaughnessy is a striking picture of feminine deceit and betrayal Able to shed tears on command, she is a confirmed liar who can be as deadly as she is beautiful; she can make passionate love to Bogart, but wouldn't hesitate a moment to kill him if it suited her plan Her performance is surely one of the screen's most brilliant portrayals of duplicity masked with fascination
Sydney Greenstreet, in his movie debut, was equally memorable as the menacingly mountainous man behind the search for the elusive black bird, and almost stole the picture Cunning, determined, appreciative of the fine arts, Greenstreetwho seemed to get more dangerous as he got more imperturbably politeis a man who would devote his entire life to a single quest if need be
Peter Lorre's Joel Cairo was a resolute picture of classic villainy With curled hair and impeccably clean dress, he is an unpredictable accomplice of Greenstreet, difficult to deal with
But it is Bogart's portrayal of Sam Spade that remains classic in its construction Obviously cynical, he still maintains his own code of ethics which he adheres to faithfully He is doubtful, but not foolhardy He is courageous, but not without fear Spade uses everyone he comes in contact with He wins not because he's smarter than his enemies, but because he is the only character in a central position Spade is every bit as ruthless as the crooks who try to use him His tactics in dealing with them, however, are necessary for his survival...
His treatment of the two women in the film seems equally as harsh, but neither is a wide eyed innocent and both attempt to deceive him in one manner or another His exchanges with Brigid O'Shaughnessy are electric... Their mutual attraction is undeniable... But Spade will play the fool for no woman He is a loner, but he has contacts, and knows where to go for what he wants Even with very little money, he is totally incorruptible He has no apparent friends He is laconic, but he can throw a wisecrack as fast as he can throw a punch...
"The Maltese Falcon" molded the image we remember of Bogart all through the early years of the Fortiesan image elaborated upon and reinforced in "Casablanca," and the one which all Bogart fans remember with great affection and admiration