Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon from 1941, is the very essence of the term, "Classic Film."  It was John Huston's directorial debut, and marks the approximate mid point of Humphrey Bogart's career.  The main characters are all superb; Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, Elisha Cook, Jr., Ward Bond, and Sidney Greenstreet. 

It is hard to believe that this was Sidney Greenstreet's first film, and that he only appeared in film for eight years, making 22 of them.  He is best remembered for The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca (1942), two classics that would be welcome on any actor's resume.

Ward Bond was well into his career by 1941 with over 200 movie roles, many uncredited, before making Falcon.  He became Burt the cop in It's a Wonderful Life, but it was his second to last gig on TV's "Wagon Train" that he is probably most remembered for.

I may put Elisha Cook, Jr. in that bit/character actor category, though.  He made over 200 appearances on movie and TV screens, starting in 1930.  He was a piano player in Sergeant York in 1941, worked with Laurel and Hardy in A-Haunting We Will Go in 1942, joined Bogart again in The Big Sleep in 1946, and made two other films with John Huston.

I don't know if I remember him, or just can imagine him, in the original TV series, "Adventures of Superman" with George Reeves.  He just seems to fit!  John Hamilton, who played Perry White in "Superman," was also in The Maltese Falcon.

"Superman" was less than half way through Cook's 58 year career, and it was the last role Hamilton played in his.  I do remember Cook in the original "Star Trek" series as a guest star in 1967.

Cook continued making movies and TV shows until 1988.  Some were hits and some were not.  One I have not seen was when he reprised his role as Wilmer Cook in a 1975 comedy called The Black Bird, starring George Segal as Sam Spade's son.  I may skip that one.  If you like the 70's, look for him in Electra Glide in Blue instead.

I must mention Walter Huston appearing in Falcon, directed by his son.  Of course he is not a bit actor, but he was one in this film!  He played an uncredited police captain.  The trouble with a classic like The Maltese Falcon is that there were no bit actors and no unimportant parts.  That's what makes it a classic.

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