The following article is a review of three film adaptations of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon: the pre-Code Maltese Falcon (1931), the bizarre comedic Satan Met a Lady (1936), and the superb film noir version (1941).
Synopsis: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929)
Sam Spade is a private detective working in San Francisco. A woman identifying herself as Miss Wonderly appears in his office one day and asks for his help: she claims her sister is visiting the city in the company of a disagreeable man, and Wonderly wants the two separated. Spade’s partner Miles Archer takes over the case and agrees to shadow the man, Thursby, but that evening both Miles and Thursby are shot dead.
The next day, Spade meets up with Wonderly, who explains that she and Thursby were involved in a plot to capture an illusory, legendary, jewel-studded falcon statuette that has been smuggled around the world by treasure hunters through the ages. … Read the rest
All This, and Heaven Too (1940). 141 minutes. Directed by Anatole Litvak. Starring Bette Davis (as Henriette Deluzy-Desportes), Charles Boyer (as Charles, Duke de Praslin), Barbara O’Neil (as Francoise Sebastiani de Praslin), June Lockhart (as Isabelle de Choiseul-Praslin), Virginia Weidler (as Louise de Choiseul-Praslin), Ann E. Todd (as Berthe de Choiseul-Praslin), Richard Nichols (as Reynald de Choiseul-Praslin), Jeffrey Lynn (as Rev. Henry Martyn Field), Harry Davenport (as Pierre), Montagu Love (as Horace Sebastiani), Helen Westley (as Mme. LeMaire), and George Coulouris (as Charpentier). Based on the novel by Rachel Field. Music by Max Steiner.
All This, and Heaven Too is about a couple that is simultaneously both having an affair and not having an affair. The lovers in question, governess Henriette Deluzy-Desportes and her employer, Charles, Duke de Praslin, never utter the words “I love you” to each other, and they appear to have no physical relationship. You may be tempted to think that such a story would not be … Read the rest
The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941). 92 minutes. Directed by William Keighley. Starring James Cagney (as Steve Collins), Bette Davis (as Joan Winfield), Eugene Pallette (as Lucius Winfield), and Harry Davenport (as “Pop” Tolliver).
The Bride Came C.O.D. is reminiscent of two other films that I have reviewed recently. Like von Stroheim’s Greed, it was filmed in Death Valley when temperatures were high. Like It Happened One Night, it features a wealthy heiress who wants to marry a dashing celebrity of whom her father disapproves, and the plot involves her displacement and an elaborate hunt to locate her.
By the early 1940s, Bette Davis and James Cagney were looking for new material. Cagney had flourished playing gangster characters in movies such as The Public Enemy, and Davis had had great success in melodramas such as Jezebel and Of Human Bondage, but both actors thought a comedy was necessary to move their careers in fresh directions. What they … Read the rest