The Maltese Falcon is so memorable, none more so than the fabulous Sydney Greenstreet (1879-1954) as Kaspar Gutman .
Gutman’s search for the Falcon is all consuming and Greenstreet delivers some great lines of dialogue:
“The best goodbyes are short. Adieu.”
“I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.”
To which Sam Spade replies: “Swell, will we talk about the black bird.”
Gutman philosophises :
“I do like a man who tells you right out he’s looking out for himself. Don’t we all.”
Amazing to realise this was Sydney Greenstreet’s movie debut at the age of 62. Small wonder he was Oscar nominated. He is simply superb as the obsessed seeker of the Falcon. Kent born Greenstreet had a long stage career (he debuted on Broadway in 1907) and his acting talents translated surprisingly easily to the film camera. He seems completely at home and commands the screen whenever he appears.
Sydney subsequently made 24 films between 1940 and 1949 , when he retired . He had been married since 1918 and had one son.
Gutman is a villain , but a villain who is jovial and eloquent. Even at the end of the film, his cool demeanour only disappears briefly while he is unwrapping what he believes is the bejewelled Falcon. But it’s a fake.
He’s been searching for the Falcon for 17 years, and indicates he’ll start again ( he seems to be well funded!) – except of course Sam Spade turns him in to the police.
By gad, he is a character. You almost wish he could continue his search for the black bird.