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One day, a certain Ruth Wonderly (Bebe Daniels) hires detectives Sam
Spade (Ricardo Cortez) and Miles Archer (Walter Long) to observe a man for
her - and the next day, Archer turns up dead, Spade becomes the prime
suspect in his murder, and a bunch of eccentric characters - Joel Cairo
(Otto Matieson), Casper Gutman (Dudley Digges) and his righthand-man
Wilmer (Dwight Frye) - turn up in his office asking for a certain bird,
apparently a priceless statue that dates back to the Middle Ages and
incidently exactly the statue Ruth is after as well. Spade doesn't have
the statue, but since the others won't accept that, he decides to play for
time ... and wouldn't you know it, eventually the statue is delivered to
him by a dying man. Spade is too clever though to hand them over to those
after the bird and demands quite a bit of money and a fall guy for the
murder of his partner he didn't commit - and this way he manages to play
the others against one another until the statue turns out to be a fake.
Wilmer has taken off on his own since he was supposed to be the fall guy,
and now Cairo and Gutman make their exits as well - to run right into
Wilmer's gunfire, as he wasn't too pleased that they wanted to sell him
off. In the end, he is arrested anyways though, and Spade also hands over
Ruth to the police, although he has fallen in love with her - but he has
also found out that it was her who had murdered Miles ...
by its own terms, The Maltese Falcon is a pretty decent crime
thriller, sticking pretty closely to the novel by Dashiell Hammett it's
based on, which is of course a masterpiece of crime literature.
today's point of view, it's almost impossible not to compare this film to The
Maltese Falcon by John Huston, which was made 10 years later - and
which is the by far better movie. Thing is, Huston's film sticks to the
source novel about as closely as this film, but has somehow managed to add
much more tension and suspense to the story, had a better cast at hand,
and especially Ricardo Cortez in the lead in this version of the story
fails to convince as hard-boiled detective, not only when compared to
That all said, this earlier version of the story is by
no means a bad film, yet at the same time it's no classic, and deservedly
so, and if you have the choice you should invariably go for Huston's