CAST

Warren William
Bette Davis
Alison Skipworth
Arthur Treacher
Marie Wilson
Wini Shaw
Porter Hall
Olin Howlin
Charles C. Wilson
DIRECTED BY

William Dieterle
PURCHASE

Movie
Soundtrack
Book
Poster
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"I suppose if somebody paid you enough you'd try to find Santa Claus."
Time: 66 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Comedy/Mystery
Though based on the Dashiell Hammett novel THE MALTESE FALCON, this mystery thriller is played for laughs instead of thrills. Featuring the same basic characters and story line, this version of the story lacks suspense, but is somehow still entertaining. Warren William stars as Ted Shayne, an infamous detective known more for his womanizing ways than his crime-solving abilities. His ex-partner Ames (Hall) is not happy to see him again, but changes his mind when he brings business to the faltering detective agency. Without even trying, they become embroiled in a search for a fabled horn supposedly filled with jewels that leaves several men dead and Shayne on the hook for murder. Unless he can find the culprit and prove otherwise. He meets with a rather rowdy bunch of criminals – Davis as the femme fatale, Skipworth the master criminal, Treacher the lackey and Holmes the muscle – all seeking and paying for his help in acquiring the ancient treasure.

Since it's in his best interest he plays all of them against one another, ultimately working to clear his good name, while making a buck or two in the process. Unlike the Bogart version, the machinations, double-crosses and threats upon Shayne's life are treated like a game of cat and mouse with no cause to be concerned for his safety. Though a comedy, a little seriousness would have given the film the additional depth it needs to be something special, rather than merely a modest mystery. While not as cool and classy as Mary Astor, who has the same role in the 1942 version, Davis shows her flirty and fearsome sides as a smart and sassy dame who will do anything to win the prize. Her fans won't be disappointed. Though Marie Wilson almost steals the show, giving her all to the proceedings as Shayne's ditzy blond secretary. The role certainly isn't unique, but she gives it a spark and sex appeal you won't soon forget.

This is only the third film I've ever seen with Warren William and I have to say I'm intrigued. His Ted Shayne is closer to Nick Charles than Sam Spade on the detective behavior scale, though his preference seems to be babes instead of booze. His character uses his charm and intelligence to solve crimes, but only because it seems to impress the ladies, not out of concern for the law. Shayne is self-centered and spoiled, yet his innate style and class make him a hard man not to like. Which is a good thing, since he's in every scene. At just over an hour, the pace of this film is brisk, which might make it somewhat hard to follow for those unfamiliar with the tale. Of course, the plot isn't really the point. It's the interaction between the wacky and wicked characters that makes this flick fun. Fans of the Bogart version will need to really suspend their disbelief if they want to enjoy this picture, but if you can, there's enough energy and wit to make this a worthwhile experience.