Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Maltese Falcon, A Favorite

It's in the rules, printed in their handbook. Mystery and crime writers have to read THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett before they write a novel. Why? Because when Detective Sam Spade becomes embroiled with a mysterious client, avenges the death of his partner, and chases a priceless, bejeweled treasure, it's the stuff dreams are made of, that's why. It's also a shining example of the private-eye novel, one of America's great contributions to literature and art.

Well, I'm quoting The Famous Author with that one. Me, I'd say WHIP ANGELS carries more literary weight.

The 1941 movie by John Huston, also called THE MALTESE FALCON, was so faithful to the book, many people believe the "stuff dreams are made of" line--one of the classic pieces of dialogue in all movie history--was in Hammett's book. It's not. Director Huston was not happy with the ending of Hammett's book, at least for the movie. In the book, Sam Spade wraps up the case for his secretary. Huston wanted something snappier, and guess who provided it?

Humphrey Bogart, according to Lawrence Grobel's 1989 biography, THE HUSTONS. Bogie himself, the man who got to speak it, came up with, "The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of." It's a paraphrase of a Shakespeare line from The Tempest.

THE MALTESE FALCON was featured last month for The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Click on the headline and see what other events are part of The Big Read.

The Famous Author will discuss THE MALTESE FALCON and its influence on his writing (If you go, try not to laugh) at New York's Mercantile Library, Center for Fiction, Thursday night, April 3, beginning at 6:30 pm. 47th Street between Park and Ave. of the Americas. TFA appears with some real mystery writers, including Chris Grabenstein, SJ Rozan, Peggy Ehrhart, and Chris Knopf.

Look for me inside the black computer case. I'll have a prize for you if you ask.

1 comment:

Rick Bylina said...

Hope the talk went well.

The other improvement that Huston did to the novel when taking it to the big screen was the elimination of Gutman's daughter, an unnecessary subplot character.

Though Austin would have liked her. I believe she was a redhead.