The Maltese Falcon (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Suspenseful, labyrinthine, and brilliantly cast, The Maltese Falcon is one of the most influential noirs -- as well as a showcase for Humphrey Bogart at his finest.

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Movie Info

After two previous film versions of Dashiell Hammett's detective classic The Maltese Falcon, Warner Bros. finally got it right in 1941--or, rather, John Huston, a long-established screenwriter making his directorial debut, got it right, simply by adhering as closely as possible to the original. Taking over from a recalcitrant George Raft, Humphrey Bogart achieved true stardom as Sam Spade, a hard-boiled San Francisco private eye who can be as unscrupulous as the next guy but also adheres to his own personal code of honor. Into the offices of the Spade & Archer detective agency sweeps a Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who offers a large retainer to Sam and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) if they'll protect her from someone named Floyd Thursby. The detectives believe neither Miss Wonderly nor her story, but they believe her money. Since Archer saw her first, he takes the case -- and later that evening he is shot to death, as is the mysterious Thursby. Miss Wonderly's real name turns out to be Brigid O'Shaughnessey, and, as the story continues, Sam is also introduced to the effeminate Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and the fat, erudite Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his film debut). It turns out that Brigid, Cairo and Gutman are all international scoundrels, all involved in the search for a foot-high, jewel-encrusted statuette in the shape of a falcon. Though both Cairo and Gutman offer Spade small fortunes to find the "black bird," they are obviously willing to commit mayhem and murder towards that goal: Gutman, for example, drugs Spade and allows his "gunsel" Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) to kick and beat the unconscious detective. This classic film noir detective yarn gets better with each viewing, which is more than can be said for the first two Maltese Falcons and the ill-advised 1975 "sequel" The Black Bird. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Humphrey Bogart
as Sam Spade
Mary Astor
as Brigid O'Shaughnessy
Peter Lorre
as Joel Cairo
Sydney Greenstreet
as Kasper Gutman
Gladys George
as Iva Archer
Barton MacLane
as Det. Lt. Dundy
Lee Patrick
as Effie Perine
Ward Bond
as Det. Tom Polhaus
Jerome Cowan
as Miles Archer
Walter Huston
as Capt. Jacobi
Murray Alper
as Frank Richman
Emory Parnell
as Mate of the La Paloma
Creighton Hale
as Stenographer
Charles Drake
as Reporter
Elisha Cook Jr.
as Wilmer Cook
Hank Mann
as Reporter
Jack Mower
as Announcer
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Critic Reviews for The Maltese Falcon

All Critics (49) | Top Critics (8)

The Maltese Falcon is the first crime melodrama with finish, speed and bang to come along in what seems ages.

Full Review… | August 29, 2012
The New Republic
Top Critic

Frighteningly good evidence that the British (Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, et al.) have no monopoly on the technique of making mystery films.

Full Review… | April 23, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

The Maltese Falcon is among the most important and influential movies to emerge from the Hollywood system -- as significant in some ways as its contemporary, Citizen Kane.

Full Review… | June 10, 2008
ReelViews
Top Critic

This is one of the best examples of actionful and suspenseful melodramatic story telling in cinematic form.

Full Review… | April 8, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

Who can argue with Bogart's glower or Mary Astor in her ratty fur?

Full Review… | October 16, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Filmed almost entirely in interiors, it presents a claustrophobic world animated by betrayal, perversion and pain.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Maltese Falcon

½

Bogart is perfect and in his best shape as an arrogant detective who tries (along with us) to make heads and tails of an extremely intricate and dizzy affair, and the best thing is, it is an incredibly well-constructed plot in which all of the pieces fit in the end with no loose ends.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

The Maltese Falcon is highlighted by a character study of contrasting personality types. People wrestle with greed, deception, and loyalty. Humphrey Bogart is conflicted by darker desires. He's more of an antihero as the lead. Cynical and hard-hearted - he doesn't seem overly troubled by his partner's death, removing his fellow associate's name on the business door while the body is still warm. Nevertheless Bogart exemplifies cool collected style as the self-assured gumshoe. Mary Astor is captivating as the requisite femme fatale. She initially appears fragile, but looks can be deceiving. Then there's a colorful trio of shady individuals. 61 year old stage actor Sidney Greenstreet surprisingly making his feature debut here as "The Fat Man". He was Oscar nominated for his supporting role. Yet Peter Lorre is just as iconic as the effete Joel Cairo. Joel is no match for Spade. "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it," Spade rebukes him. Elisha Cook, Jr. is the lightest heavy of the three. He provides some much appreciated comedic relief. At times, the set-bound action almost resembles a play. The movie is talky to say the least. Scenes are inundated with words, overstuffed even. But oh what dialogue! John Huston's Oscar nominated screenplay is so meticulously composed, you'll marvel at its construction. It demands repeat viewings to take it all in, but it only gets better with age. fastfilmreviews.com

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

It is uneven, and dips in energy mid-way through, however the mystery and well-delivered one-liners make The Maltese Falcon a mostly enjoyable watch.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

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