Where was The Maltese Falcon filmed?
San Francisco (USA)
Riverside, Unique, Office
Boat Style, Construction, Office Building Style
About The Maltese Falcon
After two somewhat unsuccessful attempts to bring Dashiell Hammett's iconic noir novel The Maltese Falcon to life, Warner Bros. found the perfect fit with John Huston’s debut as a director in 1941. Humphrey Bogart became a superstar thanks to his portrayal of Sam Spade—an intrepid San Francisco detective who embraces dishonesty but still keeps true to his moral code.
At the Spade & Archer Detective Agency, Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) arrived with a generous offer: if they could guard her against Floyd Thursby, she would pay them handsomely. Neither Sam nor his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) believed anything that Miss Wonderly said and began to question her motives for being there. On further investigation, however, it emerged that she had come seeking help to find her missing sister and was desperate to get her back safely.
Sam and Miles took on the case and, after a series of events that all seemed to be interconnected and culminated in several murders, they eventually uncovered the truth about what was really going on behind the scenes: namely that a valuable statuette known as The Maltese Falcon had been stolen by Thursby and others were out for revenge or even worse—money! Along the way, Sam began to develop feelings for Miss Wonderly but was unable to act on them due to his own sense of justice—something he ultimately put before everything else when faced with making an impossible choice at the end of the mystery.
The Maltese Falcon Locations
This beloved crime noir masterpiece was filmed across several locations in San Francisco. From the bustling streets of Chinatown to the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Ferry Building, this movie provided a glimpse into 1940s life in the city.
The majority of scenes for The Maltese Falcon were shot on location in San Francisco's Chinatown neighborhood, providing vivid backdrops for the movie's suspenseful plot. 111 Sutter Street was used as the fictional location of Sam Spade's detective agency, while other locales included Bush Street and its surrounding area. From these images on film, viewers can see a bustling Chinatown full of vibrant colors and Chinese-style architecture set against the towering backdrop of downtown San Francisco.
A trip to these filming locations is sure to provide a unique experience for any fan of The Maltese Falcon. Those wishing to explore further may take a tour through busy Chinatown streets or enjoy breathtaking views from atop Coit Tower at Telegraph Hill Park with its unique Art Deco-style buildings and monuments that have been featured in many films over the years.
Visiting Warner Bros Burbank Studios is also an option for those looking to get a look at a sound stage similar to one where films like The Maltese Falcon were created. Not only will visitors get to see back-lot sets and props, but they may also find themselves standing on sets from newer blockbusters.
The opening scene in The Maltese Falcon
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA, United States
The familiar grayish 1940s San Francisco is viewed with a slow, panoramic camera shot that showcases the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and a few towering skyscrapers. Peering out from a window in San Francisco, we find Humphrey Bogart's embodiment of the cynical and tough Sam Spade side-by-side with his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) within a sparsely decorated office. Behind the scenes, it's revealed that Archer shares something more intimate with Spade - his wife. Spade, poised and rolling a cigarette at his desk, is distracted by the entrance of Effie Perine (Lee Patrick), his loyal and upstanding assistant. She brings with her news of an upcoming client—a vision named Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor). Before he can greet her properly, however, Spade is interrupted by the ringing phone from one of his previous case's contacts.
The Golden Gate Bridge is truly a feast for the senses, not only providing a stunning visual experience but also incorporating sound and light in its design. Its distinctive orange-red color has become an instantly recognizable symbol worldwide and its lights flash nightly to the delight of onlookers. Additionally, the hum of traffic crossing over the bridge is a unique experience that many people find reassuringly familiar and calming. The Golden Gate Bridge has cemented itself as one of the most celebrated monuments in the world, uniting us all in awe of its beauty and commitment to quality construction.
Exploring San Francisco’s iconic bridge is easy to do no matter where you start in the city. To get downtown and Union Square to the Golden Gate Bridge, the simplest option is taking the Muni #38 bus westbound towards Park Presidio Boulevard. In no time you will be looking out over some of the most breathtaking landscapes that California has to offer.
Miles Archer shot scene in The Maltese Falcon
611 Bush St., San Francisco, CA, United States
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) come face to face with the enigmatic Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor), who arrives at their doorstep carrying an intrigue as cryptic as San Francisco's own streets. She claims her sister has vanished after running away from home in New York with a man named Floyd Thursby. Though uncertain if this case is even possible to solve, Archer agrees to help find the missing girl. Unfortunately, the investigation takes a dark turn when the police come to inform Spade that Archer was found dead.
The city of San Francisco celebrates the most interesting parts of its history, even when they are pure fiction. At the corner of Bush Street and Burritt Street stands a small bronze plaque to commemorate a scene from The Maltese Falcon. The plaque states that it was at this particular intersection where one of the story's central characters, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, fatally shot Miles Archer, Sam Spade's partner. In a way, it is fitting that this sign should be here as San Francisco has always been associated with the novel and its film adaptations throughout the years. Thanks to this historical plaque visitors forevermore can ponder the city's connection with some of literature’s most beloved characters!
Located west of the Financial District, a bronze plaque is conveniently affixed to the south side of Bush Street. You'll know you've arrived when you pass Stockton street and find yourself at Burrit St., which is an alley that terminates shortly after its start—just look for the wall on your right as soon as you turn in!
The freighter scene in The Maltese Falcon
1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA, United States
On coming round, Spade quickly searched the suite and his eye was caught by a newspaper with the arrival time of the freighter La Paloma circled. Knowing that this had to be important, he decided to head down to the dock as soon as he could. Yet upon his arrival at the dock, horror filled him as he saw that the ship was ablaze with fiery flames. He immediately called for help, but it seemed no one would make it in time to save anyone on board.
The scene was shot in The San Francisco Ferry Building. It stands as a grand testament to 19th-century architecture. American architect A. Page Brown designed it in the Beaux-Arts style and completed his work in 1898: the largest project for the city up to that time. The most eye-catching feature is undoubtedly the 245-foot clock tower, featuring four 22-foot clock dials visible from Market Street. Its design was likely inspired by the Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain. Not only does it serve as an important terminal for ferries traveling across San Francisco Bay, but it also houses a bustling food hall and office building alike. It’s safe to say that this architectural masterpiece has become an integral part of Southwestern culture and history.
Accessing this area is simple and convenient—the closest stop to The Ferry Building, no matter your chosen mode of transportation (subway, train or bus) is Embarcadero. From there, head northeast on Market Street towards Spear Street and look for Ferry Plaza.
Adapting Dashiell Hammett's classic novel, John Huston managed to stay true to the original story while also adhering to the rigid Production Code of the time. His first directorial effort turned The Maltese Falcon into a movie that is now widely considered a groundbreaking example of film noir.
Humphrey Bogart starred as Sam Spade, the cynical and morally ambiguous private detective who navigates a world of greed, corruption, and temptation—particularly when it is represented by Mary Astor’s femme fatale character. In contrast to other noir films of the period which relied heavily on chiaroscuro lighting techniques, Huston focused more on maintaining a gritty atmosphere and emphasizing hardboiled dialogue and characterization.
This is exemplified in his casting and terrific movie location choices. The movie was an instant success due to its strong themes, intense storylines, clever dialogue, and memorable performances, with each actor giving depth to their characters in order to capture both the sinister atmosphere and moral ambiguities that define film noir.