‘Spade and Archer is the name of a San Francisco detective agency. That’s for Sam Spade and Miles Archer. The two men are partners, but Sam doesn’t like Miles much. A knockout, who goes by the name of Miss Wanderly, walks into their office; and by that night everything’s changed. Miles is dead. And so is a man named Floyd Thursby. It seems Miss Wanderly is surrounded by dangerous men. There’s Joel Cairo, who uses gardenia-scented calling cards. There’s Kasper Gutman, with his enormous girth and feigned civility. Her only hope of protection comes from Sam, who is suspected by the police of one or the other murder. More murders are yet to come, and it will all be because of these dangerous men – and their lust for a statuette of a bird: the Maltese Falcon.’
– J. Spurlin (IMDb) Continue reading
Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall and featuring Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell Anderson’s 1939 play of the same name, which played on Broadway for 105 performances in 1939 and 1940.
Frank McCloud travels to a run-down hotel on Key Largo to honor the memory of a friend who died bravely in his unit during WW II. His friend’s widow, Nora Temple, and wheelchair bound father, James Temple manage the hotel and receive him warmly, but the three of them soon find themselves virtual prisoners when the hotel is taken over by a mob of gangsters led by Johnny Rocco who hole up there to await the passing of a hurricane. Mr. Temple strongly reviles Rocco but due to his infirmities can only confront him verbally. Having become disillusioned by the violence of war, Frank is reluctant to act, but Rocco’s demeaning treatment of his alcoholic moll, Gaye Dawn, and his complicity in the deaths of some innocent Seminole Indians and a deputy sheriff start to motivate McCloud to overcome his Hamlet-like inaction. Continue reading
John Huston’s last film is a labor of love at several levels: an adaptation of perhaps one of the greatest pieces of English-language literature by one of Huston’s favorite authors, James Joyce; a love letter to the land of his ancestors and the country where his children grew up; and the chance to work with his screenwriter son Tony and his actress daughter Anjelica. The film is delicate and unhurried, detailing a Christmas dinner at the house of two spinster musician sisters and their niece in turn-of-the-century Ireland, attended by friends and family. Among the visiting attendees are the sisters’ nephew Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta. The evening’s reminiscences bring up melancholy memories for Gretta concerning her first, long-lost love when she was a girl in rural Galway. Her recounting of this tragic love to Gabriel brings him to an epiphany: he learns the difference between mere existence and living. The all-Irish cast and careful period detail give the piece richness and gravity, and Donal McCann and Anjelica Huston are unforgettable as the Conroys. Continue reading
Davey Haggart (John Hurt) wishes to follow his father’s footsteps and become a highway robber. He also wishes to avoid his father’s fate — which was death by hanging at the tender age of 21 after a botched robbery of the Duke of Argyle (Robert Morley). Davey commits a daring robbery in broad daylight with the help of two henchmen (Ronald Fraser and Fidelma Murphy) and heads for the highlands of Scotland to hide out. The local Constable (Nigel Davenport) warns young Davey he will end up just like his father but helps him escape the fate of dancing on the end of a rope. Annie (Pamela Franklin) is the kind-hearted farm girl who tries to make sweet Davey give up a life of crime and settle down. This comedy was taken from the autobiographical diary”The Life Of David Haggart.” Continue reading
Humphrey Bogart plays Fred C. Dobbs, down-on-his-luck American in Mexico—he cadges the odd peso out of friendly passersby and countrymen, just so he can fill his stomach every now and again. He pals around with Curtin (Tim Holt), and after the two of them get cheated out of their wages by an American unethical even by the standards of this film, they exact their revenge, but their pockets are still empty. At the local flophouse, they overhear talk of an old codger called Howard (Walter Huston), who promises that in fact there is gold in them thar hills. If only they had enough scratch to buy the necessaries, they could be making themselves a fortune. Continue reading
The Asphalt Jungle is a brilliantly conceived and executed anatomy of a crime — or, as director John Huston and scripter Ben Maddow put it, “a left-handed form of human endeavor.” Recently paroled master criminal Erwin “Doc” Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), with funding from crooked attorney Emmerich (Louis Calhern), gathers several crooks together in Cincinnati for a Big Caper. Among those involved are Dix (Sterling Hayden), an impoverished hood who sees the upcoming jewel heist as a means to finance his dream of owning a horse farm. Hunch-backed cafe owner (James Whitmore) is hired on to be the driver for the heist; professional safecracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso) assembles the tools of his trade; and a bookie (Marc Lawrence) acts as Emmerich’s go-between. The robbery is pulled off successfully, but an alert night watchman shoots Ciavelli. Corrupt cop (Barry Kelley), angry that his “patsy” (Lawrence) didn’t let him in on the caper, beats the bookie into confessing and fingering the other criminals involved. From this point on, the meticulously planned crime falls apart with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. Way down on the cast list is Marilyn Monroe in her star-making bit as Emmerich’s sexy “niece”; whenever The Asphalt Jungle would be reissued, Monroe would figure prominently in the print ads as one of the stars. The Asphalt Jungle was based on a novel by the prolific W.R. Burnett, who also wrote Little Caesar and Saint Johnson (the fictionalized life story of Wyatt Earp). — Hal Erickson Continue reading