RARA-AVIS: The Maltese Falcon

From: Vince Keenan ( vpkeenan@hotmail.com)
Date: 18 Sep 2004

There's very little I can add to what's been said about Hammett's book, but that's never stopped me before. I just wanted to chime in with my contribution before the month is out.

The oft-repeated legend (it even turns up in Eddie Muller's history of film noir, DARK CITY) is that Huston 'wrote' the screen adaptation by having his secretary retype Hammett's novel in screenplay format. There are enough deviations from the text to make me think that's an apocryphal story. It probably says too much about me that the dropped scenes, particularly the episode with Gutman's daughter, always feel off to me when I read them. I can't tell if that's because they're not in the movie, or because Huston was on to something.

The "extremely objective third person style" that Jim Doherty mentions makes Spade inscrutable at best and unlikable at worst, but he's never less than compelling. Maybe it's the fact that so much contemporary fiction is lousy with psychology, but it felt bracing to go back to a book where you're asked to judge characters on the basis of their actions alone.

Vince Keenan www.vincekeenan.com Pop culture, high and low, past and present. One day at a time.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Sep 2004 EDT