RARA-AVIS: Maltese Falcon screenplay

From: Michael S. Chong ( menglish47@yahoo.com)
Date: 15 Mar 2008

Film to books....
  From The Wit and Wisdom of Hollywood:
  John Huston and I were officemates at Warners---shared a secretary between us . One day he came in, tossed a book on my desk, took a stance, pointed a finger at the book and said "Kid, Warner said if I could get a screenplay out of this Dash Hammett thing, he'll let me direct it."
  "He's already made it once," I reminded John.
  "Never used the book the first time. You and I---we'll do the screenplay, huh, kid? Read it?" I did. John was right. The first Maltese Falcoln hadn't touched the story Hammett had written, I went into John's office to give him my reaction. "Let's go," I said, eager for another assignment.
  "Fine, kid, fine. But first, before we do that---let's get it broken down. You know, have the secretary recopy the book, only setting it up in shots ,scenes and dialogue. Then we'll know where we are. Okay, kid?"
  "Fine with me," I said.
  About a week later, John ambled into my office, looking very puzzled. "Goddamnest thing happpened, kid," he said, giving each word a close-up. My eyes asked what. "Something maybe you didn't know," he said. "Everything these secretaries do, a copy's got to go to the department. This Maltese thing our secretary was doing, that went there too."
  "That's routine," I said.
  "But the department has to send everything to Warner---and he reads it!" John said. The look on his face said that Warner was a Peeping Tom, invading our privacy. "He read this Hammett book we had broken down and he just called me on the phone," John said,
  Now I was really worried. "Are we closed out," I asked, "for getting this done without an okay from somebody?"
  "Closee out, hell," he boomed. "Warner said he wants me to shoot it---and I start next Monday!"
  (from Hello, Hollywood!, by Allen Rivken and Laura Kerr, Doubleday, 1960)
  Side note: just finished (Kerry Schooley) John Swan's Sap... I have been looking for Toronto noir (desperately) and I have found one. HB, dark, and full of the Big Smoke. James Crumley-esque with lowlives and a touch of the madness that is TO.

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