John Huston

The Maltese Falcon

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No one hard-boils glamor like Humphrey Bogart. And here in the inauguration of his peremptory charm, first-time director John Huston gives film noir the slanted shadows to match the ones under Bogart’s eyes. Raymond Chandler slashed it with rain before sticking its romance in the cold corner pocket, like Dashiell Hammett (who pens the book Huston adapts), a man of mean streets and smoky rooms, of loose broads and heroes who charge by the hour. Huston gets it. He gives a hard-drinking city its cool hilarity, that crease-faced ire of Bogart turning whiskey glasses to dust in a fit of rage, storming out, and grinning in the hall, too pleased with himself. He gives it the broken bottle dreams that would pass to Rick Blaine. He’s no story, all character. If he doesn’t make the first noir, he makes the first that knows itself.