Maltese Falcon, The (1941): Making of Huston’s Masterpiece

Dashiell Hammett wrote the best of all private-eye novels. The Maltese Falcon originally appeared  as a five-part serial in the pulp detective magazine, “Black Mask,” beginning in September 1929.

Hammett, the founder of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction, wrote a book that lent itself to dramatization, as it’s constructed as a series of brilliant dialogues.

In 1930, the book got published and immediately became a best-seller. Warner bought the rights that year for $8,500, and it produced two film versions in the next six years.

Producer Henry Blank made the film in 1936, but it was not successful.

John Huston  cut out two minor characters, the daughter of the “Fat Man,” and Sam Spade’s attorney. But he retained large sections of the dialogue, and style of the detective fiction.

The Production Code demanded that Sam Spade would not have sexual affairs with Iva, his partner’s widow.

Huston had assembled a perfect cast for each role.

Maltese Flacon is a rare example of a studio made product with aspirations to be taken seriously as high art, which French critics were the first to acknowledge.