This is one of the best examples of actionful and suspenseful melodramatic story telling in cinematic form. Unfolding a most intriguing and entertaining murder mystery, picture displays outstanding excellence in writing, direction, acting and editing–combining in overall as a prize package of entertainment for widest audience appeal. Due for hefty grosses in all runs, it’s textured with ingredients presaging numerous holdovers in the keys–and strong word-of-mouth will make the b.o. wickets spin.
John Huston, son of actor Walter Huston, makes his debut as a film director after several years as a film writer. His entrance into the directorial field is noteworthy, with display of keenest knowledge in tempo development and handling of the various players. Huston also wrote the script solo, endowing it with well-rounded episodes of suspense and surprise, but detouring from synthetic theatrics–and carrying along with consistently pithy dialog.
Of major importance is the standout performance of Humphrey Bogart, an attention-arresting portrayal that will add immeasurable voltage to his marquee values. Bogart not only dominates the proceedings throughout, but is the major motivation in all but a few minor scenes. Mary Astor skillfully etches the role of an adventuress whose double-crossing is not disclosed until the final scenes.
Critical and audience spotlight will be focused on Sydney Greenstreet, prominent member of the Lunt-Fontaine stage troupe, who scores heavily in his first screen appearance. Player displays consummate ability as an artist of high rank, and solidly holds attention through several extensive dialog passages that could easily fall apart in less competent hands. Advantageous support is provided by Lee Patrick, Peter Lorre, Ward Bond, Gladys George, Barton MacLane, Elisha Cook, Jr., Jerome Cowan and James Burke.
Picture is a remake of an original film turned out by Warners 10 years ago, with Bebe Daniels and Ricardo Cortez. Despite this fact, it’s still a strongly melodramatic tale concocted in Dashiell Hammett’s best style. Story details the experiences of private detective Bogart when called in to handle a case for Miss Astor–shortly finding himself in the middle of double-crossing intrigue and several murders perpetrated by strange characters bent on obtaining possession of the famed bejeweled Maltese Falcon. Keeping just within bounds of the law, and utilizing sparkling ingenuity in gathering up the loose ends and finally piecing them together, Bogart is able to solve the series of crimes for the benefit of the police.
An intriguing piece of melodramatic entertainment, “Maltese Falcon” weaves swiftly through a series of attention-holding episodes to crack through to a most unsuspecting climax. To secure utmost in audience reaction, exhibs can take advantage of the surprise finish by publicizing starting times of the picture, and advising patrons to get maximum entertainment by seeing it from the start. Extra advance exploitation to obtain first day patronage will roll up hefty momentum in the key runs.
Picture is an A attraction in its class, and will hit biz of the same kind in all bookings.
1941: Nominations: Best Picture, Supp. Actor (Sydney Greenstreet), Screenplay