This second filming of Dashiell Hammett's classic detective story The Maltese Falcon is probably the least true to the book and the least successful. William plays the Sam Spade character, here called Ted Shayne. He is hired by Davis to locate a certain Mme. Barrabas (equivalent to
Casper Gutman in the other films, and played by Alison Skipworth), but she will not tell him why. Skipworth finds out she is being sought and sends one of her minions to find out why from William's none-too-clever secretary, Wilson. Later William calls on Skipworth and she offers him money to tell
her where Davis is, further explaining that Davis used to work for her and stole a fabulously valuable ram's horn filled with jewels. William goes back to Davis and questions her. When she gives him yet another story, he sets his partner to follow her. She spots the tail and, thinking he's one of
Skipworth's men, kills him. She asks William to collect the treasure when it arrives on a ship from Asia the next day, but Skipworth and her associates show up as well and take it away from him. Davis then emerges with a gun and takes the horn for herself. Suddenly, though, the police swarm in,
called by William's secretary, and they arrest the whole sordid crew. Playing largely for laughs that never really come off and needlessly tampering with Hammett's characters, this film would be all but forgotten today except as a piece of interesting trivia. Davis had just finished THE PETRIFIED
FOREST when she was told that this (then under the working title of THE MAN IN THE BLACK HAT) would be her next film. She looked at the script and refused to have any part of it, telling the studio lawyer sent to remind her of her contractual obligations that "Valerie Purvis in HAT is wrong for
me. There are hundreds of artists you can select for the part. I'm exhausted from this picture--can't you see I'm exhausted? I need a rest--my nerves are bad." Jack Warner would not accept this and sent a studio doctor to examine Davis. When he arrived she was not at home, and more threats and
counterthreats were exchanged via telegram between the star and the studio. Eventually, she was forced to relent. She had too many bills and could not afford to take a suspension. Davis' judgment of the film was correct; it was savaged by the critics on its release and never found an audience.
Five years had passed since the first MALTESE FALCON had appeared. Five more would elapse before John Huston would bring it to the screen definitively.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This second filming of Dashiell Hammett's classic detective story The Maltese Falcon is probably the least true to the book and the least successful. William plays the Sam Spade character, here called Ted Shayne. He is hired by Davis to locate a certain Mm… (more)