Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The world's best remake

We hate remakes don't we? Hollywood seems to be money hungry now, milking the last few drops out of the golden teats of brands just to make some dough. Nothing is sacred. All those classics you hold near and dear are just waiting to be butchered by some big studio wanting to make a fast buck. It's just a matter of time until classic power houses such as Casablanca (1942), The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939) are remade for today's contemporary audience. However, remakes aren't new. They are an old tradition in the movie business. Let's take The Maltese Falcon (1941) for example. Not only is it a remake of the 1931 version it's also preceded by another remake Satan Met a Lady (1936) with Bette Davis and Warren William. 

I often wonder what goes into the decision making process of 21st century movie studios when they decide to remake a classic. I like to envision that young upstarts at these studios, fresh out of film school but have not yet made an emotional connection to certain classics come up with these ideas only to have them robbed by the powers that be that throw money around to make it happen. Then they see who's hot, who's available, who's willing to butcher and/or remake this film to cash in on some big box office dough. Some remakes are good but the unfortunate truth is that most are really bad. But audiences will still flock to theaters because these established names are recognizable. Who wants to take a chance on an unknown when there is something safe and familiar instead?

One thing about The Maltese Falcon is that if they ever remake it again they can NOT top the cast. Humphrey Bogart was effortlessly cool as Sam Spade. Mary Astor as the dangerous, scared and alluring Brigid O'Shaunessy was simply divine. And I couldn't imagine any other team of criminals than Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr. Or could I? While I watched the film I looked closely at each of the actor's faces and tried to come up with the first contemporary actor that came to mind. In some cases it was physical appearance in other cases it was a random association based on essence. This new cast could either prove as a nightmare or a decent possibility to you. For me, it would only work if they did something fresh and new with it. If they do ever remake this, there is no way they will be able to find an actor like Bogie. He has no equivalent. There is no replacement. Bogie was Bogie, 'nuff said.

Humphrey Bogart

Ben Affleck
(I have this strange Bogie-Affleck thing. Don't ask)

Mary Astor

Julianne Moore
(Astor pouted in the same way Moore does)

Sydney Greenstreet

James Gandolfini
(Gandolfini can't play loveable but he can sure play a big round intimidator)

Peter Lorre

Johnny Galecki
(Hair, eyes, they sort of resemble each other. Plus some guy called Chuck Lorre produces the Big Bang Theory. I didn't even realize this until I was looking up the actor!)

Elisha Cook Jr.

Casey Affleck
(eh. They just look alike!)


  1. Somehow I doubt that anyone would try to remake The Maltese Falcon. Though an extremely essential classic, it's not a dazzling, splashy movie like some films.

    The cast is what truly made The Maltese Falcon great and it's time in film history also is important, as it was the dawn of Film Noir. (That's a very odd statement, considering that noir means darkness or night!)

  2. Emm - I don't agree with you at all. The Maltese Falcon name carries a lot of clout and the Hollywood machine could make it dazzling and splashing if they wanted to. Didn't you hear that they are remaking The Thin Man? That name has far less clout and isn't dazzling or splashy either. Yet they are remaking it. Even with a glut of crime-solving couple movies that have come out in the past 10 years.

  3. Oh--just saw your comment about The Thin Man--that's just weird to think about! I could definitely see J Moore. It's interesting that the average Hollywood film actor these days just looks more standardized than the likes of Bogie, Greenstreet, Lorre & Cook. But it's an interesting exercise!

  4. The Maltese Falcon is one of my favourite films of all time, in my top twenty at least. It is certainly the greatest remake of all time, I although I prefer think about it as another re-interpretation of the novel! At any rate, it is definitely the definitive version.

    Your casting is very interesting. I can definitely see Galdolfini and Greenstreet being similar, as well as Lorre and Galecki. I'm not so sure about Ben Affleck and Bogie. I think I'd more go with Scott Bakula. I think he resembles Bogie and he has played Dashiell Hammett inspired, hard boiled detectives before (the most notable is probably Clive Barker's Harry D'amour in Lord of Illusions). I think I would go with Nicole Kidman as Brigid instead of Julianne Moore, but then I never have cared too much for ginger hair! I do think Nicole looks sort of like a blonde version of Mary.

  5. I love The Maltese Falcon! I think the acting is superb (especially Peter Lorre) and the script is wonderful! I love who you imagined playing the Mary Astor role-Julianne Moore would be perfect!

  6. Sad I know, I haven't seen this classic. Ahhh! I know you're are screaming right now, I will have to remedy that very soon. :o) But I love your recasting! Perfect choices!

  7. Oh, and I should add...I would DIE if they remade The Wizard of Oz! It's my absolute favorite from my childhood, I just can't imagine Tim Burton changing it up. Blah!

  8. Excellent casting and I would throw in the Coen brothers as writers/directors/producers.


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