Spade: We didn't exactly believe your story, Miss O'Shaughnessy, we believed your 200 dollars. I mean you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it alright.
Sam Spade’s words to Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) are an example of the tone of this hard-boiled detective story. There is an atmosphere of moral emptiness surrounding the main characters. Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) is investigating the murder of his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and will find himself involved in a dangerous quest for a precious ancient statue of a falcon. Several double-faced, weird characters are after the “bird”:
Detective Tom Polhaus: [grabs the falcon] Heavy. What is it?
Sam Spade: The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.
The artists playing the roles of the intriguing characers are big names too: Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo, Elisha Cook Jr as Wilmer Cook or Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman. It’s a film with great performances, witty dialogues, an iconic gem of early film noir.
The movie – based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel - would also be a turning point in Bogart’s career: he had mainly been given roles of gangster until this film. In The Maltese Falcon he became a hard-boiled, cynical, individualistic character.