Dashiell Hammett, the Mystery Novel, and the Birth of 'Film Noir'

David Kelly

Abstract


John Huston's 'The Maltese Falcon' (1941) is often cited as the first fully fledged 'film noir'. Yet, although this genre was to become one of the most enduring and popular of all in cinema, many of its techniques and approaches were anticipated in and inspired by the literary text it was adapting, Dashiell Hammett's 'The Maltese Falcon' (1930). This essay explores the relation between Hammett's novel and conventions of the mystery narrative dating back to the first detective stories of Edgar Allen Poe in the early nineteenth century, and analyses the way in which these helped to fashion the thematic and stylistic character of 'film noir'.

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