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The Flaw in The Maltese Falcon


slaytonf
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It's not really a flaw in the movie.  More a flaw in the production code system.  Or maybe it is a flaw in the movie.  Because even if they were allowed to get away with it, they still put it in the movie.  And it doesn't matter if it was in the book.  Books never kept people from doing what ever they wanted in a movie.  Even so, it's not a big part of the movie, even a very minor part of the movie.  And maybe most people would not think it even a flaw.  But still. . . .

 

So here's Sam Spade, who's having an affair with a woman.  And it's made clear what's going on between them.  And it's an affair with a married woman.  And the married woman is his partner's wife.  Not that his partner is any angel, as Spade well knows.  And here is Brigid O'Shaughnessy, who it's less clearly, but no less certainly made known, has had affairs of her own.  But it's O'Shaughnessy that takes the fall, and it's Spade who's the hero.  Of course, there's the matter of a murder or two, but isn't Spade setting the wrong moral compass?  How could the Hays Office have allowed an adulterer to be the hero of the movie?  That is, without having something really bad happen to him, like going to jail?  This sounds an amoral note.  In fact, the whole movie is rife with amorality.  Does Sam Spade go to all that trouble to search for the killer of a valued friend and partner?  No, he does it to maintain his creds as a private eye.

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Add to that, it's probably supposed that Spade took the "high road" by pulling away from the adulterous affair AFTER his partner was killed, cad that he too, was, while his partner's widow seemed to feel her husband's death "cleared the road" for her and Sam.  It became clear that Sam felt the whole comedy was just for kicks, and SHE took it all too serously.

 

I suppose too, it got by the "code police" due to the affair just being referred to, and no adulterous activity was actually shown.  No Sam and the lady checking into a hotel, or in hotel room or leaving said hotel.

 

I mean, if the Hays office could give CLAIRE TREVOR's "Francey" in DEAD END a pass, why not the carrying-ons of Spade and friend?

 

Sepiatone

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It's not really a flaw in the movie.  More a flaw in the production code system.  Or maybe it is a flaw in the movie.  Because even if they were allowed to get away with it, they still put it in the movie.  And it doesn't matter if it was in the book.  Books never kept people from doing what ever they wanted in a movie.  Even so, it's not a big part of the movie, even a very minor part of the movie.  And maybe most people would not think it even a flaw.  But still. . . .

 

So here's Sam Spade, who's having an affair with a woman.  And it's made clear what's going on between them.  And it's an affair with a married woman.  And the married woman is his partner's wife.  Not that his partner is any angel, as Spade well knows.  And here is Brigid O'Shaughnessy, who it's less clearly, but no less certainly made known, has had affairs of her own.  But it's O'Shaughnessy that takes the fall, and it's Spade who's the hero.  Of course, there's the matter of a murder or two, but isn't Spade setting the wrong moral compass?  How could the Hays Office have allowed an adulterer to be the hero of the movie?  That is, without having something really bad happen to him, like going to jail?  This sounds an amoral note.  In fact, the whole movie is rife with amorality.  Does Sam Spade go to all that trouble to search for the killer of a valued friend and partner?  No, he does it to maintain his creds as a private eye.

You are dead on, Slayton!

 

I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of this film. Having read all the crime novels of Hammett, and considering his experience as a Pinkerton, I agree with you that Spade is no more moral than Brigid O'Shaughnessy and it is debatable who really deserved to take the fall or was taking the moral high ground.

 

Not only that, I will go further and say that this film is not even a noir one, despite the opinions of the noir contingents who follow self-professed noir czars who think that seeing wet, dark streets and night scenes constitute noir in all its essence.

 

Not noir, not moral, and not so easily categorized since Hammett's take on such things was totally tempered with real life knowledge and not just a desire to be fantasizing about noir dames and having interludes.

 

Great topic and you should expand it into a book, and I will buy the first copy, Slayton!

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This is the second version of the movie. The first was made pre-code.

 

If you want to point out the code issues in this movie, I direct your attention to Bogart and Bacall's version of The Big Sleep which makes no sense because of the code. In the book it is quite clear that Bacall's sister is being blackmailed for having taken NUDE pictures of herself.  that is what was in that bookshop.  But of course with the code, you could not show nudity.  Therefore, the viewer is left being confused as to why anyone would be blackmailed for being a model in a slinky dress.

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This is the second version of the movie. The first was made pre-code.

 

If you want to point out the code issues in this movie, I direct your attention to Bogart and Bacall's version of The Big Sleep which makes no sense because of the code. In the book it is quite clear that Cacall's sister is being blackmailed for having taken NUDE pictures of herself.  that is what was in that bookshop.  But of course with the code, you could not show nudity.  Therefore, the viewer is left being confused as to why anyone would be blackmailed for being a model in a slinky dress.

I remember watching The Big Sleep and being rather confused on the whole plot. Obviously in this case, I believe the book told the story a lot better, due to the film codes. Sometimes the code was helpful, other times it was not, and left holes in the plot.

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Third, actually. In between, there was Satan Met a Lady.

Thanks Fedya.

 

I will put Satan Met a Lady on my to-see list.  I have tried to watch every version made of various Sam Spade  and Phillip Marlowe mysteries, whether they are excellent or barely  watchable as I have read the mysteries and love them.

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The only flaws I see in this film are technical. 

 

Walter Huston drops the bird, then slumps into a chair. As we are viewing this from behind the chair, an off-screen figure casts a shadow upon the top of the chair - it moves back and forth. Perhaps this was the cameraman.

 

The stuffed chair in Bogie's apartment is a rocker when Barton MacLane sits in it; not a rocker when Sydney Greenstreet sits. This one has been explained. There was some difficulty with Sidney and the rocking chair moving or tipping, so the legs and rocker were removed for his scenes - I've read.

 


One other picky little item: When Sydney Greenstreet is hacking the bird with his penknife, moving erratically, the camera switches to a frontal headshot of him. His movements are suddenly frozen as he poses for the shot, then it returns to the side view of him and the bird. It's awkward.

 

I think Mary Astor should have been at least nominated for best actress.

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Who cares, really?   There are flaws in most movies and the real subject here is why cannot you just enjoy the movie?   If I spent my time looking for flaws I would enjoy nothing and lead a very disparate life of depression.  Movies are made to be enjoyed. 

 

"THE MALTESE FALCON" was pure enjoyment just to watch the method the actors employ to depict their characters and the "time period" of the movie.  

 

Lighten up movie goers.

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Lighten up movie goers.

 

I'm with ya on this one, Emily!

 

Seems there's an increase of so-called "movie buffs"  finding their way in here who seem to expect movies from ANY period to be documentaries. :P

 

I DO have a personal viewpoint to convey, and it's mostly personal opinion  than what I'd consider any kind of flaw in the movie......

 

I'd only go as far as to say MARY ASTOR isn't too offensive to the eyes, but I never agreed to the assesment of Spade's secretary Effie that-----"She's a KNOCKOUT."  I'm not alone in this view.......

 

A friend of mine said he used to think, and still does  that the Astor character..."Looks TOO OLD for Bogey!"

 

Sepiatone

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Who cares, really?   There are flaws in most movies and the real subject here is why cannot you just enjoy the movie?   If I spent my time looking for flaws I would enjoy nothing and lead a very disparate life of depression.  Movies are made to be enjoyed. 

 

"THE MALTESE FALCON" was pure enjoyment just to watch the method the actors employ to depict their characters and the "time period" of the movie.  

 

Lighten up movie goers.

I can't speak for Slayton, but I think his point about "flaws" was not about nitpicking whether someone's hairdo was appropriate to the time period but more on a higher plane of things like Hamlet's fatal flaw in character in the Shakespearean play.

 

That type of "flaw" is always fun to discuss, whether in a film or a play, and is what makes for lighthearted discussion.

 

I mean, any talk about movies is always light in tone to me, since movies are not a serious subject intrinsically anyway, now are they?

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Who cares, really?   There are flaws in most movies and the real subject here is why cannot you just enjoy the movie?   If I spent my time looking for flaws I would enjoy nothing and lead a very disparate life of depression.  Movies are made to be enjoyed. 

 

"THE MALTESE FALCON" was pure enjoyment just to watch the method the actors employ to depict their characters and the "time period" of the movie.  

 

Lighten up movie goers.

We are just having fun, Emily.

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I can't speak for Slayton, but I think his point about "flaws" was not about nitpicking whether someone's hairdo was appropriate to the time period but more on a higher plane of things like Hamlet's fatal flaw in character in the Shakespearean play.

 

That type of "flaw" is always fun to discuss, whether in a film or a play, and is what makes for lighthearted discussion.

 

I mean, any talk about movies is always light in tone to me, since movies are not a serious subject intrinsically anyway, now are they?

I agree, CaveGirl.

 

slaytonf likes to discuss individual movies with threads called "The Flaw in --------" and we are free to discuss our personal opinions.

 

I pointed out that the flaw in Falcon was nothing t compared to The Big Sleep - which I have read.

 

I love detective books and movies.

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I agree, CaveGirl.

 

slaytonf likes to discuss individual movies with threads called "The Flaw in --------" and we are free to discuss our personal opinions.

 

I pointed out that the flaw in Falcon was nothing t compared to The Big Sleep - which I have read.

 

I love detective books and movies.

You are right there. CF.

 

Even Raymond Chandler supposedly was a bit unclear on who was the culprit in TBS. There is some story about the butler being at the beachhouse or such, which is hysterical.

 

I too have read almost all the Hammett and Chandler works and even they are rife with possible mistakes but who cares. I've never worried about the veracity of a detective tale.

 

What fun is it to watch movies unless one can also discuss every minute aspect of them, knowing full well that it is all persiflage and unimportant.

 

Much better than to have to discuss the intricacies of the U.N. or how to end welfare fraud.

 

As Eydie Gorme once said, the way to have a happy marriage is never to discuss anything important.

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I might have said it right off, but nothing in my o. p. should be construed to mean that I don't like or enjoy The Maltese Falcon, and think it is an excellent bit of filmmaking.  John Huston's direction is a tour-de-force, alternately light, ironic, and comic, then moody, foreboding, and deadly.  The cast, of course, could not be excelled, pros all, who hit their marks, play in counterpoint or harmony with their script and fellow actors, and know when to take center stage, and cede it to others.

 

I just wanted to bring up the point that I thought it extraordinary that a movie made dead in the middle of the code era could have an adulterer as a hero.

 

Always know I post here for fun.  I like movies, especially well made ones, and like finding new aspects to them, and learning other people's ideas about them.

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I might have said it right off, but nothing in my o. p. should be construed to mean that I don't like or enjoy The Maltese Falcon, and think it is an excellent bit of filmmaking.  John Huston's direction is a tour-de-force, alternately light, ironic, and comic, then moody, foreboding, and deadly.  The cast, of course, could not be excelled, pros all, who hit their marks, play in counterpoint or harmony with their script and fellow actors, and know when to take center stage, and cede it to others.

 

I just wanted to bring up the point that I thought it extraordinary that a movie made dead in the middle of the code era could have an adulterer as a hero.

 

Always know I post here for fun.  I like movies, especially well made ones, and like finding new aspects to them, and learning other people's ideas about them.

Yes, slaytonf.  This is a fun thread and most people recognize that these threads are interesting and enjoyable.  But I guess when people have had a bad day, they don't want to read anything that might not be fun to read.

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....So here's Sam Spade, who's having an affair with a woman.  And it's made clear what's going on between them.  And it's an affair with a married woman.  And the married woman is his partner's wife.  Not that his partner is any angel, as Spade well knows.  And here is Brigid O'Shaughnessy, who it's less clearly, but no less certainly made known, has had affairs of her own.  But it's O'Shaughnessy that takes the fall, and it's Spade who's the hero.  Of course, there's the matter of a murder or two, but isn't Spade setting the wrong moral compass?  How could the Hays Office have allowed an adulterer to be the hero of the movie?  That is, without having something really bad happen to him, like going to jail?  This sounds an amoral note.  In fact, the whole movie is rife with amorality.  Does Sam Spade go to all that trouble to search for the killer of a valued friend and partner?  No, he does it to maintain his creds as a private eye.

 

Well, first, Sam Spade is a man. We all know that, then and even now, promiscuous and "immoral" sexual behaviour is tolerated much more in men than in women.

Second, although you say "there's the matter of a murder or two", you do sort of dismiss the enormity of the crime of murder, a crime that is shirley a much bigger sin than sexual philandering. And Sam did not murder anyone; Brigid did. And in cold blood, too. I think this warrants a harsher punishment from the Code than having an adulterous affair, especially when the culprit is male (we all know how women usually end up when they've had an adulterous affair.)

Third: It's irrelevant whether Sam considers his murdered partner a "valued friend" or not. Miles Archer was his partner, and, as Spade tells Brigid as he's sending her down to take the fall, when someone kills your partner, "you have to do something about it." And he did.

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I might have said it right off, but nothing in my o. p. should be construed to mean that I don't like or enjoy The Maltese Falcon, and think it is an excellent bit of filmmaking.  John Huston's direction is a tour-de-force, alternately light, ironic, and comic, then moody, foreboding, and deadly.  The cast, of course, could not be excelled, pros all, who hit their marks, play in counterpoint or harmony with their script and fellow actors, and know when to take center stage, and cede it to others.

 

I just wanted to bring up the point that I thought it extraordinary that a movie made dead in the middle of the code era could have an adulterer as a hero.

 

Always know I post here for fun.  I like movies, especially well made ones, and like finding new aspects to them, and learning other people's ideas about them.

 

I knew exactly what you meant when you posted, and I'm in full agreement as to the overall quality of this film. It's rock solid.

 

Just from watching the movie, however, I wasn't convinced Spade was an adulterer. I got the impression Miles' wife had misunderstood casual comments made by Spade, possibly in the company of Miles and herself while they were socializing somewhere - dinner, maybe.  Comments such as "If you weren't married, I'd ...", which were a form of kidding, but she took them seriously and pursued. Spade wanted no part of that.

 

That's my impression, anyways.

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Second, although you say "there's the matter of a murder or two", you do sort of dismiss the enormity of the crime of murder,

 

 

Again, the regrettable dearth of emoticons (or are they emojis, now?) leads to unfortunate misunderstanding.  Missing is one designed to communicate mildly ironic momentary touching on uncomfortable contradictory facts to avoid undermining of the main argument, with indirect acknowledgement and sly communication (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) of the humorous intent of the said main argument.  One I've had most particular need of over the years.

 

 

 It's irrelevant whether Sam considers his murdered partner a "valued friend" or not. Miles Archer was his partner, and, as Spade tells Brigid as he's sending her down to take the fall, when someone kills your partner, "you have to do something about it." And he did.

 

 

And I wondered how such an amoral code could have been found acceptable by the Hays Office.  Could the hero have even entered into business with a man whose behavior he should disapprove, even reprehend?

 

 

Well, first, Sam Spade is a man. We all know that, then and even now, promiscuous and "immoral" sexual behaviour is tolerated much more in men than in women.

 

 

Perhaps you have discovered a flaw in the Hays Office?

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Just from watching the movie, however, I wasn't convinced Spade was an adulterer. I got the impression Miles' wife had misunderstood casual comments made by Spade, possibly in the company of Miles and herself while they were socializing somewhere - dinner, maybe.  Comments such as "If you weren't married, I'd ...", which were a form of kidding, but she took them seriously and pursued. Spade wanted no part of that.

 

 

I may be casual in my viewing.  I'll take an opportunity to watch the movie more closely.  Do you think Spade and O'Shaughnessy hook up?  There is an opportunity.  

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I may be casual in my viewing.  I'll take an opportunity to watch the movie more closely.  Do you think Spade and O'Shaughnessy hook up?  There is an opportunity.  

 

Strangely enough, that's something to which I haven't really given any serious thought. Of course it has flickered through my mind, but I've always been too busy enjoying her performance to follow through on it.

 

I'll have to watch for that more closely.

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Yeah, you've got to do something when someone knocks off

your partner, even if said partner was a bit of a sleaze. Plus,

it's bad for business if you don't.

 

Well, I always thought that Iva Archer was hotter than Brigit.

Maybe kinkier too. Probably has something to do with those

widow's weeds that she wears so well.

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