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'The Maltese Falcon' returns to theatres at ripe age of 80

Last Updated Jan 26, 2021 at 4:08 pm EST

Danny Huston’s first dog was an Airedale Terrier named Sam after Humphrey Bogart’s “Maltese Falcon” character, Sam Spade. His father John Huston’s debut may have been over 20 years old by the time Danny was born, but the film that helped define the noir genre and launch both his and Bogart’s careers still factored heavily in his life from an early age.

Growing up in Ireland, one of his favourite memories was when his father would bring out the projector and they’d gather around to watch his films. “The Maltese Falcon” was always a highlight.

“It’s like a good book,” Huston said. “You find new things when you revisit it.”

Now the film that no one believed in is celebrating its 80th anniversary. It’s returning to theatres through Fathom Events for a limited engagement on Wednesday.

“It’s an important film to see if you love films and I think it stands the test of time. It’s gripping in its speed but it’s not reckless. And the lines! It had such memorable lines,” Huston said. “The dialogue in ‘Maltese Falcon’ is action, pure action.”

Huston loves talking about his father, who gave him advice and unforgettable experiences along the way. When he was a teenager, his father brought him along to Morocco for the shoot of “The Man Who Would Be King” with Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

And when Huston himself was thinking about directing, his father told him to treat every scene as if it’s the most important and to never feel bashful about asking family for help. John Huston reminded him that he’d even called on his own father for “The Maltese Falcon.” Walter Huston famously appears in a cameo role as the man who delivers the falcon.

The film’s legend has only grown and the prop itself has become one of the most valuable pieces of movie memorabilia.

“I have a falcon but it’s not real,” Huston laughed.

Danny Huston never got to meet Bogart, who died a few years before he was born, but he knew that it was a great loss for his father.

“They were great friends and larked about a lot, much to Katherine Hepburn’s horror. But they loved each other deeply,” he said. “The camera sees things that the naked eye doesn’t and with Bogart, the camera found an incredible nobility.”

Danny Huston said that his father got to enjoy his own legacy during his long life — he died in 1987 at age 81 — but that he likely wouldn’t have believed that 80 years later the film would still be a topic of discussion.

But, Huston laughed, “He would certainly be delighted.”

And he has yet to name another pet after a character in his father’s films, but he thinks he might start again. Next up: Wilmer.

Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press