The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 'film noir' written and directed by John Huston in his directorial debut, and based on Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel of the same name.
The film stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam Spade and Mary Astor as his femme fatale client. Gladys George, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet co-star, with Greenstreet appearing in his film debut. The story 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.
The film premiered on October 3, 1941, in New York City, and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
The Maltese Falcon is a part of Roger Ebert's 'Great Movies' series and was cited by Panorama du Film Noir Américain as the first major film noir. In 1989, The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", going in the first year of voting.
The "Maltese Falcon" itself is said to have been based on the "Kniphausen Hawk", a ceremonial pouring vessel made in 1697 for George William von Kniphausen, Count of the Holy Roman Empire. It is modelled after a hawk perched on a rock and is encrusted with red garnets, amethysts, emeralds and blue sapphires. The vessel is currently owned by the Cavendish family35 and is part of the collection at Chatsworth House.
Three of the falcon statuettes still exist and are conservatively valued at over $1 million each. This makes them some of the most valuable film props ever made; indeed, each is now worth more than three times what the film cost to make.
For Humphrey Bogart, the experience of the film was the highlight of his career. He said, "It was practically a masterpiece. I don't have many things I'm proud of but that's one." Bogart so respected John Huston and the Sam Spade character that he searched until the end of his life for a script that recaptured the excitement he found in this film.
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