83021: The Maltese Falcon (Warner Brothers, 1931). One
Sam Spade calls it "the stuff that dreams are made of." Caspar Gutman refers to it as a "rara avis," a "rare bird." Both of them are talking about the Maltese Falcon, the priceless, jewel-encrusted statue that is at the heart of Dashiell Hammett's seminal noir novel of the same name, but they could as easily have been referring to this recently unearthed one sheet for the first film adaptation of this classic tale, released in 1931, starring Ricardo Cortez. Most people are familiar with the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart in the iconic role of Sam Spade, but fewer are aware that the Bogart version was actually the third time that Hammett's novel had been brought to the screen. In 1930, what would become one of Hammett's best known works was serialized in the pages of Black Mask, a popular detective fiction pulp of the day. An immediate hit, it didn't take long for Warner Brothers to see the potential in Hammett's story, especially as they were beginning to have success with their line of popular crime films such as Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931). Faithfully adapted from Hammett's novel, the film starred Ricardo Cortez as private eye Sam Spade, one of detective literature's greatest creations. Born Joseph Krantz to Austrian parents, the future Sam Spade had been reinvented as a Latin lover when he changed his name to Ricardo Cortez, part of Paramount's efforts to groom him as a successor to Rudolph Valentino during the silent era. Although his career as a heartthrob never took off, Cortez remained a popular actor throughout most of the 1930s before retiring from Hollywood to take on a successful position as a Wall Street investor. When the studio tried to re-release the film in 1936, they were unable to obtain the approval of the Production Code, owing to such "lewd" content as Bebe Daniels' nude bathtub scene, overt suggestions of Spade's sexual involvement with female clients, and the inclusion of strong homosexual themes, like the suggestion that Wilmer the gunsel and Caspar Gutman are involved in a homosexual relationship. Although all of these elements were fine in the less restrictive pre-Code Hollywood era, when the Code grew teeth a few years later, such references and innuendos were enough to have a picture shelved.
Rather than give up on the idea, however, Warner Brothers simply reshot the picture under the title Satan Met a Lady (1936), starring Bette Davis and featuring a script that the Code could accept. Finally, in 1941, Warner Brothers released the definitive version of the film starring Bogart, a picture that ignited the film noir genre. The Maltese Falcon has always been popular with poster collectors, who regularly vie for paper from the 1941 version. One sheets from the Bogart picture, perhaps the most desirable of all film noir posters, regularly sell for $10,000 and up. Paper from Satan Met a Lady is exceedingly scarce; in more than ten years, Heritage has only ever offered a single insert, one window card, and a lone lobby card, all of which were enthusiastically snatched up by genre fans desperate to have an example of this film in their collection.
For true scarcity, however, the prize has to go to the original 1931 version: Almost no paper has survived from this film. In years past, Heritage has offered a lobby card, a title card - which sold for $8,365 and $9,560, respectively - and a few stills, but little else has ever surfaced, making this a title eagerly sought by hungry collectors. This is the only copy of this highly desirable one sheet known to exist in the world. This stone litho beauty, featuring both Cortez and Daniels, showed pinholes, as well as some tears and chipping in the image area, credits, and left border. There was a paper chip into the bottom left corner within the white field only. In addition, approximately one and three quarter inches of missing white paper in the right border and one inch in the top border have been replaced. After expert professional restoration, these slight flaws have been rendered nearly invisible, making this a poster that you will be proud to own and display. How much will it bring? Well, in the words of Caspar Gutman, "The maximum?... I refuse to guess. You'd think me crazy. I don't know. There's no telling how high it could go, sir, and that's the one and only truth about it." From the Berwick Discovery. Very Good on Linen.