After watching Humphrey Bogart’s performance as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, I made a note to myself to see more movies in which he starred. Especially movies in which he was the cynical anti-hero. I recently watched The Maltese Falcon, a film noir in which Bogart plays hard-boiled detective Sam Spade.
The film opens with a distraught woman seeking the services of Spade and his partner Miles Archer to locate her sister who’s allegedly eloped with a disreputable man. We soon find out this is all a lie. There’s no sister. There’s no eloper. There’s only a mysterious black statuette called the Maltese Falcon and a large sum of money.
The plot, however, is secondary. It’s the characters and the mood that drive the film. It’s hard to have sympathy for Spade. We see he expresses no compunction for his partner Archer after he’s shot. He isn’t even willing to look at his dead body. He’s constantly seeking the next buck, is a womanizer, has outbursts of violent temper, and is absolutely beside himself when he outsmarts everyone. Nonetheless, there’s something honest and stark about Spade’s behavior. He not afraid to admit he’s looking out only for number one.
Bio: David Xia is an intern at Guernica. Read his last recommendation of the book The Smartest Guys in the Room here.