Hammett: “A Fast-Moving Gripping Mystery Yarn”

The pulp expert John Locke was just telling me he got his hands on a trove of Photoplay issues from the 1930s, and figured everyone would like to see how the trade mag blurbed the very first movie version of Sam Spade’s big case.

Whoever knocked out the review liked the flick a lot more than most people do — but it offends the local Shaolin Temple that the anonymous bozo doesn’t even mention Dwight Frye’s turn as Wilmer. Come on!

“Here’s a review of the 1931 Maltese Falcon,” John reports. “Nothing earth-shaking, but it’s a nice bit of ephemera not to be found in Layman’s Discovering The Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade.”

And in the event you have trouble reading from the image, John sends along the text of the review:


ARE you one of those who delight in a fast-moving gripping mystery yarn? Does your spine tingle in response to the clever machinations of the screen detective?

Then this picture is your dish, and you’ll love it. See if you can untangle the mystery before the last reel. It’s a great game.

Ostensibly, this is a starring picture for Bebe Daniels, but her part isn’t one, two, four, compared to that handed Mr. Ricardo Cortez, the sleek young gentleman who is now doing the best screen work of his career. What a performance Cortez gives in this picture, playing the demon detective who is also a first-rate Don Juan.

The story, made from the well-known novel of the same name, concerns the desire of several people to possess a jewel-encrusted statuette of an enameled falcon, worth fabulous sums. Cortez is the lad who turns the trick.

Bebe does excellent work in a part that doesn’t give her nearly enough elbow-room. Cortez, as we’ve said, is thoroughly fine, and good helping performances are given by Una Merkel, Dudley Digges and Otto Matiesen.

This is as fine a piece of film mystery — with chills and thrills — as the screens have held in some months. You’ll like it, you mystery fans!

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