The San Francisco-based hard-boiled private eye Sam Spade is the most famous creation of mystery writer Dashiell Hammett. Spade was introduced in The Maltese Falcon, first published as a serial novel in the pages of Black Mask Magazine in late 1929 and 1930, and then published as a stand-alone novel in 1930. The Maltese Falcon has since become a classic of American literature.
While Hammett would only write three more Spade short stories, the character would greatly influence popular culture. The Maltese Falcon was adapted for the silver screen for the first time in 1931 starring Ricardo Cortez. Then, a comedy version, Satan Met a Lady, was released in 1936. In 1941, the definitive film version was released with Humphrey Bogart as Spade and supported by Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. The film was as influential and as well-remembered as the book.
After World War II, the Hard-Boiled Private Eye began to appear on radio. After the success of The Fat Man, an original series created by Hammett, The Adventures of Sam Spade premiered on ABC as a summer replacement series starring Howard Duff as Sam and Lurene Tuttle as his secretary Effie. Sam Spade became perhaps the most iconic hard-boiled detective program. Duff’s take on Spade mixed with Lurene Tuttle’s comic timing made the two an unforgettable pair.
In 1950, Duff was forced out as Spade due to being listed in the Red Channels booklet, along with Hammett, for activities alleging supporting the Communist Party. Steve Dunne took over as Spade in November 1950 but lacked Duff’s charisma. The show ended twenty-four weeks later.
About the Stars:
Howard Duff (1913-90) – Prior to 1946, Duff’s most memorable radio work may have been as an announcer for the Armed Forces Radio Service. To millions of American soldiers, he was Sergeant X, who hosted the AFRS Mystery Playhouse, featuring some of the most notable detectives on the radio. Little did Duff know he’d become one of the most famous radio detectives after the war. Duff remains radio’s definitive Sam Spade. During his four years on the program, the show was a radio hit and his sardonic, wise-cracking portrayal of Spade remains one of radio’s most iconic performances. A combination of high cost, unjustified accusations of Communist activity against Duff, and justified accusations of Communist activists against Dashiell Hammett led to the end of Duff’s run. Duff struggled to find radio work after this. He was given a pilot for another detective show called The McCoy that went nowhere. However, Duff would overcome the blacklist to have a long career in film and television lasting until his death. He was the lead actor in the 1960-61 TV series Dante and later was the lead on Felony Squad. Duff also played a prominent role in the critically acclaimed Kramer v. Kramer and made numerous TV guest appearances, including such programs as The Rockford Files and The Golden Girls.
Lurene Tuttle (1907-86) was best known for playing Sam Spade’s brilliantly clueless secretary Effie. She played with both Spades (Howard Duff and Steven Dunne). Her radio acting career began in the 1930s and lasted into the 1960s with her appearances on the Salvation Army’s Heartbeat Theater. She returned in the late 1970s to appear on The Sears Radio Theater. Tuttle’s ability to play characters ranging from the serious to the silly and the sublime and at all ages made her an invaluable commodity. She could appear on programs ranging from The Red Skelton Show to The Hallmark Playhouse.
On-screen, she appeared in several films, including Psycho and two films with Marilyn Monroe. On television, she was part of the main cast of the 1950s sitcom Life with Father and became a reliable guest star and supporting actor. She was nominated for a best-supporting actress Emmy for her work on the sitcom Julia in 1970. She also was a well-respected acting coach going back to 1940s when she retrained returning service members in radio acting.
In 1960, she was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for radio and one for television.
Maltese Falcon Adaptations:
- Screen Guild Theater (with Humphrey Bogart) (Original Air Date: September 20, 1943)
Episodes with Howard Duff:
- Sam and the Guiana Sovereign (Original Air Date: July 12, 1946)
- Sam and Psyche (Original Air Date: August 2, 1946)
- Suspense: The Kandi Tooth Caper (Original Air Date: January 10, 1948, based on radio episodes from November 24 and December 1, 1946)
- The Dead Duck Caper (Original Air Date: February 2, 1947)
New Episodes added every Monday