Best Villain in "The Maltese Falcon"

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Poll Results

OptionVotes
Peter Lorre - Joel Cairo 20
Sydney Greenstreet - Caspar Gutman 19
Mary Astor - Brigid O'Shaugnessy 2
Wilmer Cook - Elisha Cook, Jr. 0


Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 August 2010 01:32 (eight years ago) link

lorre

k'naamean (zvookster), Saturday, 28 August 2010 01:33 (eight years ago) link

Mangled Cook and his character's names. Whatever. When I say shove off, I mean shove off.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 August 2010 01:33 (eight years ago) link

Astor almost seems like the only villian; Lorre and Greenstreet are just too funny. Nevertheless, Greenstreet. I'm a man who likes voting for a man who likes to vote. Or something like that.

clemenza, Saturday, 28 August 2010 01:47 (eight years ago) link

by gad sir, you are a character.

they're all great, but i love greenstreet's affable immorality.

a tenth level which features a single castle (tipsy mothra), Saturday, 28 August 2010 01:55 (eight years ago) link

It's close but I have to go with Lorre over Greenstreet.

a black white asian pine ghost who is fake (Telephone thing), Saturday, 28 August 2010 01:59 (eight years ago) link

the whole 'You... you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head you.' makes my dad giggle uncontrollably so... lorre.

Astronaut Mike Dexter (Jimmy The Mod Awaits The Return Of His Beloved), Saturday, 28 August 2010 16:09 (eight years ago) link

I always heard that line as the obvious inspiration for Ren of "Ren & Stimpy"

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 August 2010 16:10 (eight years ago) link

Greenstreet but it's close.

Widow of Opportunity (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 28 August 2010 16:12 (eight years ago) link

Greenstreet but Lorre is a very close 2nd.

o sh!t a ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ (ENBB), Saturday, 28 August 2010 16:14 (eight years ago) link

"Ren & Stimpy"--yes! I never really watched the show, but when I did stumble over it and would hear Ren, I'd always think "Wow, they're doing Peter Lorre from The Maltese Falcon." It was a much more accurate approximation than Chief Wiggum doing Edward G. Robinson.

clemenza, Saturday, 28 August 2010 16:20 (eight years ago) link

according to john kricfalusi, ren was at least partly based on kirk douglas!

i like the david thomson line somewhere in one of his books where he says he finds it hard not to believe that greenstreet isn't still out there somewhere, looking for the falcon.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 28 August 2010 16:32 (eight years ago) link

Lorre

Fig On A Plate Cart (Alex in SF), Saturday, 28 August 2010 17:33 (eight years ago) link

Am I the only one who'll rep for Mary Astor? She's the only one of the crew who's legitimately dangerous.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 August 2010 18:25 (eight years ago) link

Sure but does her dialogue compare to any of the others really?

Hongro Horace (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 28 August 2010 18:32 (eight years ago) link

Well, most of her stuff consists of straight lines. She only gets one gem of an acerbic exchange: with Cairo ("You'll get him around like you did that boy in Istanbul, Joel...").

Part of what makes Astor such great casting is that, unlike every one of her film noir villainess heirs, she projects such patrician hauteur. Her character is slumming, and she knows it.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 August 2010 18:52 (eight years ago) link

I like how she tries to play the soft centre towards the end of the movie but you're in no doubt that it's fake and she's a stone cold killer.

Hongro Horace (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 28 August 2010 19:12 (eight years ago) link

"You're not gonna start rearranging the curtains and poking at the fire again, are ya?"

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 August 2010 19:15 (eight years ago) link

I don't see how you can argue Brigid isn't the ultimate villain. However, Astor's performance is not as beloved as Joel & the Fat Man bcz she's not as florid.

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 28 August 2010 19:21 (eight years ago) link

Greenstreet is phenomenal, but Lorre's performances in this & M give him all-time cinema villain status imo.

Baluchistan of Landscape Avocado (Pillbox), Saturday, 28 August 2010 19:32 (eight years ago) link

and The Man Who Knew Too Much?

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 28 August 2010 19:33 (eight years ago) link

Question isn't "ultimate" or "evilest" villain tho, it's "best", and Greenstreet/Lorre/Cook are really enjoyable performances.

Hongro Horace (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 28 August 2010 19:35 (eight years ago) link

yeah, definitely. It is too bad he didn't do more work with Hitchcock b/c it seems like they probably had overlapping sensibilities.

I did not know this (from wiki): Peter Lorre was unable to speak English at the time of filming (a Jew, he had only recently fled from Nazi Germany) and learned his lines phonetically.

xp

Baluchistan of Landscape Avocado (Pillbox), Saturday, 28 August 2010 19:45 (eight years ago) link

One of the best things about The Maltese Falcon is discovering that almost all the film's dialogue was lifted straight out of the novel without alteration.

Aimless, Monday, 30 August 2010 03:55 (eight years ago) link

It's Greenstreet.

Not sure Bogart shouldn't be in here as an option.

k¸ (darraghmac), Monday, 30 August 2010 11:44 (eight years ago) link

Immediate reaction is Greenstreet. Paused, worked round it for a bit (excellent arguments for everyone above). Thought again. Still Greenstreet. 'Affable immorality' indeed. Said before, will say it again, it's the lyingest film I've ever seen. Brilliant.

GamalielRatsey, Monday, 30 August 2010 11:52 (eight years ago) link

There's something so fucking quixotic about him (Greenstreet). Criminal enterprise as philosophical approach.

GamalielRatsey, Monday, 30 August 2010 11:53 (eight years ago) link

Brigid is the central figure in the plot, but Mary Astor isn't really allowed to do the role full justice ... her oscillations between damsel-in-distress and man-eater are softened by Hays Office constraints. She's still damn good.

Brad C., Monday, 30 August 2010 14:24 (eight years ago) link

tons o love for Lorre (he used to live upstairs from my grandma in Berlin, after M came out people would avoid him on the streets), but Greenstreet giving up Wilmer is so cold.

clotpoll, Monday, 30 August 2010 15:45 (eight years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Wednesday, 1 September 2010 23:01 (eight years ago) link

Ha. Saw the following cryptic clue yesterday in an old E.R. Galli and Richard Maltby, Jr. puzzle:
He played Robin- and Joel Cairo in comeback? (5)

Poldark City (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 2 September 2010 21:41 (eight years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Thursday, 2 September 2010 23:01 (eight years ago) link

Poor Wilmer -- always destined to get framed.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 2 September 2010 23:01 (eight years ago) link

Darn, I was thinking of voting for him.

Poldark City (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 2 September 2010 23:56 (eight years ago) link

But Alfred is right- I'm always surprised that his character emerges unscathed on the one Star Trek episode he was one.

Poldark City (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 3 September 2010 00:06 (eight years ago) link

a crippled newsie stole wilmer's votes

Roberto Spiralli, Friday, 3 September 2010 00:14 (eight years ago) link

Haha.

Poldark City (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 3 September 2010 00:16 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

Saw this last night at the local beer theater. I had forgotten how much Peter Lorre's character was set-up/shown to be gay from before he was even introduced in a shot.

Choad of Choad Hall (kingfish), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:28 (seven years ago) link

"gardenias?"

World Congress of Itch (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:36 (seven years ago) link

"When you're slapped you'll take it and like it"

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:39 (seven years ago) link

Isn't there some lavender reference to Joel Cairo?

Love Max Ophüls of us all (Michael White), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:41 (seven years ago) link

His card, maybe?

Love Max Ophüls of us all (Michael White), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:42 (seven years ago) link

Yes. IN WITH HIM, DARLING.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:43 (seven years ago) link

Also Astor's catty remark: "You'll get him around like you did that boy in Istanbul, Joel..."

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:44 (seven years ago) link

"When you're slapped you'll take it and like it!"

xxpost

Race Against Rockism (Myonga Vön Bontee), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:47 (seven years ago) link

there is a lot of homo-villainy in MF - spade implies that gutman and wilmer are in a relationship too. the original 1931 movie got into hot water because of lewd content including homosexual references.

Roberto Spiralli, Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:54 (seven years ago) link

The first thing we put in our new apartment when we bought it was a replica of the Maltese falcon.

Love Max Ophüls of us all (Michael White), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:56 (seven years ago) link

Not so sure that Wilmer isn't gay, too.

Love Max Ophüls of us all (Michael White), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:57 (seven years ago) link

"gunsel" is homo slang

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:58 (seven years ago) link

i remember that from the other ilx thread about the movie, yeah

pet tommy & the barkhaters (darraghmac), Thursday, 10 May 2012 17:00 (seven years ago) link

seven months pass...

http://www.peterlorrebook.com/img/file002.jpg

saltwater incursion (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 27 December 2012 04:20 (six years ago) link

One of the best things about /The Maltese Falcon/ is discovering that almost all the film's dialogue was lifted straight out of the novel without alteration.

Remember this being more or less the case. One thing, did the story of Flitcraft make it into the movie?

Albee Thousand (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 27 December 2012 04:53 (six years ago) link

It's like the only thing omitted, that and the very ending with the secretary's distaste for Spade.

JoeStork, Thursday, 27 December 2012 08:02 (six years ago) link

three years pass...

man this movie is so awesome

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 25 February 2016 06:58 (three years ago) link

it's great, as i said upthread, I'm not sure there's a single line in it where someone is telling the truth. everyone lies about everything all the time.

Fizzles, Thursday, 25 February 2016 11:51 (three years ago) link

The only odd/awkward line delivery is Spade's "You've got brains. Yes you have."

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 12:17 (three years ago) link

Spade isn't lying anywhere in the "you're taking the fall" windup, i don't think.

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 12:32 (three years ago) link

ok, i need to see it again - it's been too long. didn't i see something about a theatrical re-issue?

Fizzles, Thursday, 25 February 2016 12:35 (three years ago) link

tho trying to remember that scene, not sure 'lying' is the right word - i think it felt more like every line exemplifies speech as manipulation, as motive, as a token moved on a board, on the basis of an expected response, even anger and love, traditionally 'sincere' emotions.

Fizzles, Thursday, 25 February 2016 12:43 (three years ago) link

so like the entire workday in an advertising agency

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 12:44 (three years ago) link

tons o love for Lorre (he used to live upstairs from my grandma in Berlin, after M came out people would avoid him on the streets), but Greenstreet giving up Wilmer is so cold.

― clotpoll, Monday, 30 August 2010 15:45 (5 years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

0_o

Thomas of Britain (Tom D.), Thursday, 25 February 2016 12:47 (three years ago) link

It's true, he was very nice from what I heard (third-hand information, sadly, but I'm inclined to believe it).

JoeStork, Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:09 (three years ago) link

he was a complicated guy, persistent health and drug problems (excellent full length bio is The Lost One)

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:13 (three years ago) link

It still blows my mind that his daughter was almost murdered by the Hillside Stranglers.

T.L.O.P.son (Phil D.), Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:17 (three years ago) link

Of all the movies in the world, this is the one I have returned to the most often. The only minor flaw in it is Mary Astor's wardrobe, which is a shade too elegant and tasteful when it ought to a shade more brazen and alluring.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:23 (three years ago) link

i woulda voted Greenstreet to tie this up btw

ulysses, Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:35 (three years ago) link

Not sure Bogart shouldn't be in here as an option.

― k¸ (darraghmac), Monday, August 30, 2010 11:44 AM (5 years ago)

i agree w/ this. basically every character in this movie is a villain, except for spade's secretary and his murdered partner.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:45 (three years ago) link

"well, if you lose a son, it's always possible to get another..."

JoeStork, Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:45 (three years ago) link

ok, i need to see it again - it's been too long. didn't i see something about a theatrical re-issue?

― Fizzles, Thursday, February 25, 2016 12:35 PM (6 hours ago)

yeah it's been rereleased for the 75th anniversary, i saw it the other night. perfect, except that the theater played the sound way too low (unfortunately typical for old movie showings in my experience) so it was harder to ignore the morons in front of me who kept snickering at what they obviously considered "lame old movie stuff" (while not laughing at the actual funny bits).

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:48 (three years ago) link

came in here to post bogart challop

denies the existence of dark matter (difficult listening hour), Thursday, 25 February 2016 18:52 (three years ago) link

The only minor flaw in it is Mary Astor's wardrobe...

and her hair

Brad C., Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:16 (three years ago) link

P Kael was right that the music is a bit oppressive at the climax

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:24 (three years ago) link

Astor was a big star, she was not gonna look slummy

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:26 (three years ago) link

i woulda voted Greenstreet to tie this up btw

― ulysses, Thursday, February 25, 2016 1:35 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

me too! so greenstreet wins.

re: dialogue and chess-move manipulation - - - is this a noir thing generally? i don't know the genre very well but it seems to fit this universe of hard-boiled and cynical characters trading beats and on some level appreciating the wit and tone even of the people they're trying to beat... even setting aside that they are all going to be liars as part of the plot. there's something similarly arch about a lot of the big sleep for example, i think.

shandemonium padawan (Doctor Casino), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:29 (three years ago) link

The only minor flaw in it is Mary Astor's wardrobe, which is a shade too elegant and tasteful when it ought to a shade more brazen and alluring.

for me the point of Brigid is that she pretends to be classy ("This isn't the spot for the school girl act!").

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:32 (three years ago) link

this is pre- or proto-noir. No noir proper til '45/46 (officially). Plenty of hardboiled crime lit in '20s-WW2, obviously, including Hammett.

Lorre did a repeated gag on the set where he would duck into Astor's empty dressing room when there were visitors, and emerge zipping up his pants.

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:34 (three years ago) link

btw Astor said she got the Supporting Actress that year "really" for the Falcon, not entertaining soaper The Great Lie.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:34 (three years ago) link

the big sleep has "hard-boiled" dialogue that does things w subtext that make you laugh (horses etc), and marlowe is cool and ironic, but he is also a kind of saint, or sacrifice, a contrast to the rest of his shadowy world, which is why he's summoned more than once (including lebowski + inherent vice here as well as long goodbye) to be incompatible all over again with the wicked values of other times. spade is an asshole.

denies the existence of dark matter (difficult listening hour), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:36 (three years ago) link

I like the closeup of a horrified Effie when Spade squeezes her arm tightly after opening the package ("We got it, angel, we got it!").

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:38 (three years ago) link

like, it finally dawns on her that her would-be tough line earlier in the movie ("Look at me. You worry me.") was true.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:39 (three years ago) link

main argument aside from era vs the film being a noir is ~90-95% is people talking in rooms. Cinematography is as good as it has to be, no baroque stuff.

Huston didnt shoot last chapter of book, where Effie completely realizes Sam is an asshole.

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:39 (three years ago) link

she pretends to be classy

Exactly! She's an adventuress who tries to be classy. The difficulty is that she dresses and acts the part far too primly and perfectly.

The problem here is that her too-perfectly upper class role playing makes her a bad adventuress, because she is too self-contained and a bit of a cold fish, whereas an adventuress needs to attract and hold her male targets and the bait for that is sexuality, not propriety.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:43 (three years ago) link

hmmm, Astor had a pretty sexy reputation....

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:44 (three years ago) link

spoiler alert here

rewatching the film i couldn't help but wonder when spade figured out that brigid was a murderer. did he figure it out right away and was he just stringing her along, or does he really just figure it out while talking out loud at the end of the movie?

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:49 (three years ago) link

He realizes it as she establishes a pattern of lies and he realizes the Black Bird isn't another.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:50 (three years ago) link

didn't Astor write in her memoir that she and John Barrymore splacked all day?

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:51 (three years ago) link

considering his waterlogged reputation it's a wonder he was awake through it.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:51 (three years ago) link

xp Much of the suspense comes from the question of how much of a crook Spade will turn out to be. That ambiguity gets tidied up in the movie ("Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be"). At the end of the novel, Effie's reaction shows that he's not a good guy pretending to be bad, but a bad guy cautious and calculating enough to stay within the law.

Brad C., Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:52 (three years ago) link

and Huston builds suspense by fooling the audience into thinking Spade will keep the money Gutman gave him.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 25 February 2016 19:53 (three years ago) link

I love it when Kaspar decides to sell out Wilmer down the river and gives him that callous line about how although he is like a son to him, you can always get another son.

calzino, Thursday, 25 February 2016 20:45 (three years ago) link

Yeah that's the coldest,much more illustrative, believable and affecting that bogeys big heart wrench act at the end for me

Soon all logins will look like this (darraghmac), Thursday, 25 February 2016 22:33 (three years ago) link

i just assumed that the sex w/ Brigid was really great

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 February 2016 22:34 (three years ago) link

there's a good story in the new VF about all the various claims on the "original" Falcon statuette/s

Flamenco Drop (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 27 February 2016 06:10 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

“You're not going to go around poking at the fire and straightening up the room again, are you?”

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 August 2019 01:23 (six days ago) link

You posted the exact same quote upthread nine years ago.

Another Fule Clickin’ In Your POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 12 August 2019 01:27 (six days ago) link

Not that I can throw stones at glass keys.

Another Fule Clickin’ In Your POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 12 August 2019 01:27 (six days ago) link

You will take, say, one hundred dollars?

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 August 2019 01:33 (six days ago) link

I won’t play the sap for you.

Another Fule Clickin’ In Your POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 12 August 2019 01:35 (six days ago) link

Ages ago, when I was new to teaching, another teacher and I would send this one kid in grade 3, Andrel Wisdom, back and forth between our two classrooms to recite movie lines we liked. One of them was "I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk." There'd be a knock on my door, Andrel would come in and announce "I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk." We were probably being a little irresponsible, but Andrel seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.

clemenza, Monday, 12 August 2019 02:18 (six days ago) link

Mary Astor is pretty great in most roles with any juice to 'em

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Monday, 12 August 2019 02:31 (six days ago) link

I haven't lived a good life. I've been bad, worse than you could know.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 August 2019 02:44 (six days ago) link

The problem here is that her too-perfectly upper class role playing makes her a bad adventuress, because she is too self-contained and a bit of a cold fish, whereas an adventuress needs to attract and hold her male targets and the bait for that is sexuality, not propriety.

See Bebe Daniels in the 1931 The Maltese Falcon (and for good measure, Bette Davis in 1936's Satan Met a Lady). I've seen Mary Astor bring the heat on other occasions, but as Brigid she seems a little too much like a schoolmarm trying to play a bad girl, rather than the other way around.

Anne Hedonia (j.lu), Monday, 12 August 2019 13:21 (six days ago) link

The problem here is that her too-perfectly upper class role playing makes her a bad adventuress, because she is too self-contained and a bit of a cold fish, whereas an adventuress needs to attract and hold her male targets and the bait for that is sexuality, not propriety.

this is a weird take because Astor and Huston emphasize her piss-elegance: the corsage, the stoles, etc. And the point is that Spade falls for neither her sexuality nor her propriety; he isn't fooled for an instant, unlike, say, poor dead Miles.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 August 2019 13:23 (six days ago) link


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