I read the book. The movie's better.
In mid-February, I stumbled across an article about the 75th anniversary of the publication of Dashiell Hammett's book, "The Maltese Falcon." Having seen the movie many times, I announced that I intended to read the book.
Now I have, and the movie is better.
It's heresy in some quarters to suggest that a movie made from a classic book is actually better than the classic book. But in this case, I think I'm on solid ground.
The principal reason is that so much of the book is in the movie. I mean line by line.
Hammett's writing was so sweet and powerful that director John Huston must have figured he couldn't do any better. From beginning to end, the book reads like the film script or vice versa.
It's not a complete copy, of course. The dialogue is shortened or modified slightly from scene to scene. But it's amazing how much of the dialogue was lifted from the book and put in the movie.
The plot, of course, is the same. But some aspects of the book didn't make it into the movie. In the book, Caspar Gutman has a daughter. She's a minor character, to be sure, and didn't add much. She's not in the movie. In the book, Joel Cairo is openly homosexual. In the movie, he's not. In the book, Wilmer kills Gutman for trading him, at least temporarily, for the falcon. That's not in the movie.
In the movie, Sam Spade describes the falcon this way.
(Loose paraphrase) "It's heavy. Sam, what is it?" Sgt. Polhous asks.
"The, uh, stuff dreams are made of," Spade replies.
The line is borrowed from Shakespeare (such stuff as dreams are made of). It's not in the book.
At any rate, the book is still really fun. The movie is first rate, filled with great characters, wonderful lines and terrific, memorable actors.
In case, you missed the first log, here's the web site for The Wall Street Journal article on the anniversary celebration of "The Maltese Falcon."