visions of a city: the maltese falcon

The great irony, of course, is that even though The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, USA, 1941) remains one of the most iconic depictions of San Francisco in all of cinema, none of it was actually shot in the city.  Rather, the depiction of the city was constructed through stock footage and sophisticated studio shooting in and around Los Angeles (it has been widely noted, for example, that in the scene of the pier “LAFD” can be clearly seen on the firemen’s helmets).

But what Huston’s film lacks in authenticity is compensated through what Nathaniel Rich characterizes as an “extraordinary, even obsessive, attention to the city’s geography,” and indeed, the film goes to great lengths to always remind the viewer of the narrative’s intimate involvement within the labyrinthine streets, alleyways, and shadowy corners of the city.


2 thoughts on “visions of a city: the maltese falcon

  1. In her book “A Life on Film” (1967), Mary Astor says the making
    of Falcon was a lot of fun because it was mostly shot in sequence,
    there were ample rehearsals and it was ahead of sked. I didnt
    realize it was the first movie for stage actor Greenstreet.

    By late ’40s she was reminded of the Hollywood
    joke in which you can sub the name of any player :

    1 – Who’s Mary Astor? 2- Get me Mary Astor. 3 – Get me
    a Mary Astor type 4 – Get me a young Mary Astor 5 – Who’s
    Mary Astor?

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