2/9/08 - Paul K.
The Maltese Falcon Comparison
Samuel Spade of The Maltese Falcon novel by Dashiell Hammett is quite different from Samuel Spade of “The Maltese Falcon” motion picture. The book was written a good decade before that version of the movie was produced and in a much more casual time period. The novel focuses on making Sam out to be a more complex character than the movie does. He is not just “the good guy” as he is portrayed more so in the movie. The time period may have had a lot to do with the differences between the 1941 movie and the book, published in 1929. The first thing to consider is that the late 1920’s were a much more relaxed, party era, while the early 1940’s were an era of strict decorum. While Hammett’s Spade is depicted as demeaning and a womanizer, the film makes him out to be a traditional clichéd hero, which is subsequently detrimental to the film and disregards Hammett’s original vision of Sam Spade.
The book conveys a more complex portrayal of Sam Spade, whereas the movie presents an idealized, simplistic version of Spade. In the novel, Spade does not always make the right choice, and the right choice he has to make is not always clear. At the end of the book, Spade puts his arm around Effie Perine and talks in an almost proud manner about putting Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Miles’ murderer, behind bars. She acts “as if it had hurt her” (217), escaping from him and asking him not to touch her. However, in the movie, he is congratulated unanimously on bringing justice to Miles’ killer, a significant difference from the book. The book also makes the full extent of his and Brigid’s relationship much clearer. While the book expressly shows Brigid waking up in bed next to Spade by stating, “At his side Brigid O’Shaughnessy’s soft breathing had the regularity of utter sleep” (90), the movie cuts the scene entirely, even hinting at the fact that she did not spend the night with him. The movie also avoids entirely the...