Friday, August 1, 2008

Will The Real Sam Spade Please Stand Up?

Kevin Burton Smith got me hip to some artwork by Owen Smith, that was to be a tribute to "The Maltese Falcon." The thing that interested me the most, beyond the fact that it was a tribute to one of the greatest authors of all time, was the fact that this artwork was going to be shown right here. In the very streets of the City of Saint Francis.

Well, I looked and I looked.

And I looked.

Then I looked again, because I have a one-track mind like that.

No poster. Finally about three weeks ago, they put one up on the part of Market Street near where I work.

When I saw Owen's poster, I knew he got it right. You see, technically, Sam Spade is not Humphrey Bogart.

Ease up! Ease up! Put the gats away, you mugs! Give your VCR or your DVD a rest for a minute and pick up Hammett's book for a second. C'mon, a little more than a second is all it will take. There it is on page one, paragraph one-

"Sam Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down--from high flat temples--in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan."

That's it verbatim. No quotation marks were around the letters "v," the word "motif" was italicized and "satan" wasn't capitalized. He was closer in appearance to Viggo Mortensen than Bogie, yet I can't imagine anyone but Bogart playing him. Neither could George Raft, I imagine ; )

I took some pictures of the poster at the kiosk, but my camera was not cooperating at the moment they were taken and let's face it, the pictures were as jacked up as Miles Archer at the bottom of Burritt Street.

Can you think of some examples of movie casting that went way against the literary grain?


Quin Browne said...

not at the moment, but, i always feel they got it perfectly with gregory peck as atticus finch.

Cormac Brown said...


I haven't read the book, though Peck is now Atticus. And how young was Robert Duvall back then??