RARA-AVIS: The Two Falcons

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 12 Dec 2002

Richard wrote:

>I rather enjoyed seeing the first adaptation although it pales beside
>Houston's. The worst thing about the 1931 version is the awful anti-climatic
>last scene in the prison. I think that may be the most anti-climatic scene
>in the history of motion pictures.

Yep. A horrible, awkward, even cruel scene. And Cortez was a definite weak link. He was one smug, grinning, leering (and annoying) fool as Spade. But there was a lot I liked about the film. I liked the guy who played Archer --his being much older than Iva made sense. I did like the fact Spade at least appeared to have a sex drive (which made him even more credible as a shit to Iva than Bogart was). I thought the women on the whole were more believable (and a whole lot sexier) and the exposition a lot clearer (even if some of the book was MIA). But what struck me the most was how much Huston's version followed this one. The identical camera angles, the set-ups, the framing of shots -- even the way the lines were read are often exactly the same. And the 1941 cast looks like it was chosen for its resemblance to the 1931 originals. It's like they filmed the rehearsal and ten years later Huston tidied up the rough edges.

I'm beginning to think the whole story about Huston handing his secretary Hammett's book, and telling her to type up just the dialogue is a crock. I think possibly he gave her the earlier script, and told her to put his name on it. then he went back and put in some of the missing scenes.


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