THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

Usually hailed as the first film noir, this detective story is too much fun to be simply relegated to some cubbyhole in film history. To direct his first film, John Huston picked a Dashiell Hammett novel Warner Bros. had filmed twice before and had the wisdom to stick close to the source, something neither of the earlier versions did. He also assembled the perfect cast, starting with Humphrey Bogart, who got his first big push toward stardom as Detective Sam Spade, Hammett’s knight in shining armor who’s not above cutting a few corners or sleeping with his partner’s wife but still has a moral line he won’t cross. Huston got stage actor Sydney Greenstreet to make his film debut as international con man Kasper Gutman, then matched him with his perfect foil, Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo. He even lucked on to a minor player like Elisha Cook, Jr. and gave him his perfect role as Wilmer, the patsy in the hunt for the stuff that dreams are made of. For some reason, Mary Astor’s casting as Brigid is considered more controversial (the studio wanted Geraldine Fitzgerald), but she’s both funny and sexy as she spins one lie after another. (d. John Huston, 100m, DCP)

In attendance: EDDIE MULLER