The Maltese Falcon

Memorable Movie

• Dashiell Hammett wrote a very popular story called “The Maltese Falcon” in 1930, which was made into several films. But the Warner Bros. version produced in 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston was the one that everyone remembers. The plot follows a San Francisco private detective and his dealings with three unscrupulous adventurers, all of whom are competing to obtain a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.

• It was the directorial debut of John Huston, son of famed actor Walter Huston. John had begun a successful career as a screenwriter for Warner Brothers, earning Oscar nominations for “Sergeant York” and “Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet.” When he asked Warner Brothers for a chance to direct, they agreed to let him do so if his next script was a hit. His next script was “High Sierra” starring Humphrey Bogart, and it was a smash hit when it was released in 1941. Warner Brothers let Huston pick the project he wanted to direct, and he picked “The Maltese Falcon” also starring Bogart.  It was the first of five movies Huston and Bogart would make together.

• Even though Warner Bros. executives were happy with John Huston's draft of the screenplay, they put restrictions on the production by allotting him only six weeks to shoot the film with a $300,000 budget. The production finished two days ahead of schedule and $54,000 under budget.

• Mary Aster played the role as the femme fatale client, Ruth Wonderly. John Huston had Mary Astor run around the set several times before each of her scenes in order to give her a breathless, nervous appearance on screen.

• Warner Bros. planned to change the name of the movie to “The Gent from Frisco” because the novel’s title had already been used for the 1931 film version, but Huston insisted the title remain unchanged. Early in the film, Bogart, in his role as Sam Spade, walks past a poster for the non-existent movie “The Girl from Albany” as an inside joke aimed towards Warner Bros. for the attempt to tamper with the title.

• John Huston’s father, Walter Huston, made a cameo appearance in the film. He deliberately screwed up his part over and over again just to annoy his son.

• The film premiered in New York City on October 3, 1941 and was nominated for three Academy Awards. It quickly became one of the iconic films of the day.

• The total cost of designing, casting, and painting all of the prop Maltese Falcon statues for the film was less than $700. Now those props are incredibly valuable and are each worth many times more than the film cost to make. One of the props was accidentally dropped by Bogart during filming, slightly damaging it. This one is on display in the movie museum at Warner Bros. studios, where one can see dents in the tail feathers. •           The most expensive 0nr sold for $4.1 million to Las Vegas hotel and casino billionaire Steve Wynn in 2013. It was one of the highest prices ever paid for a piece of movie memorabilia, and two of the others were for cars: the original Batmobile, which had sold for $4.6 million earlier that year, and the Aston Martin Sean Connery drives in “Goldfinger.” Today it sits, along with a pair of Picassos, a Matisse, and a Giacometti sculpture, in a meeting room in Wynn’s Las Vegas villa.

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