The Maltese Falcon (Dashiel Hammett)

Playwright David Mamet makes the argument that it is an actor’s job to simply say the words. If the words are good, they will do the work – indicate emotion, tell the story, etc.. I don’t agree with him in all cases, but he’s probably right when it comes to Dashiel Hammett. His dialogue and descriptions are so evocative that they don’t need much help from a reader or actor. Therefore, I found The Hollywood Theater of the Ear’s performance of The Maltese Falcon to be pretty distracting and disappointing. I didn’t know it was possible to chew the scenery in an audiobook, but Michael Madsen, Sandra Oh, and Edward Herrmann do so relentlessly. While Herrmann is the most versatile, if I wanted to hear the voices of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, I’d watch the movie.

The story is what it is. I don’t think you turn to Hammett for the story as much as the mood, and it survives here despite the actors. I am quite sure there have to better audio versions.


memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake.

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