Satan Met a Lady, Happy Anniversary! Premiered on July 22, 1936

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This was the day that Satan Met a Lady, July 22, 1936. Ah, but the reviews were not so keen. The Modern Screen gave the film a one-star out of a possible five, which was a poor rating;[1] going further the magazine said that this was Warner’s prize lemon for Bette Davis. One exhibitor’s trade magazine put it this way, “It ranks well up in the listing of the season’s worst films… The brothers Warner should be and probably are ashamed of this.”[2] Motion Picture Daily, predicted that audiences would find it impossible to be on the line about Satan Met a Lady; projecting that, they would either love it or hate it.[3] Yet, over and over SMAL did unexpectedly decent business.

Satan Met a Lady was an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, written by Brown Holmes. In the director’s chair was William Dieterle, Arthur Edeson, shot the photography, SMAL was edited by Warren Low; Max Parker, was the art director, costumes and jewelry by Orry-Kelly and Eugene Joseff (uncredited). The SMAL score was uncredited for both composers, Bernhard Kaun and Heinz Roemheld, the stock music was penned by M. K. Jerome (uncredited), and the music directed by Leo F. Forbstein (uncredited). Satan Met a Lady was the second attempt at filming the novel; the first was The Maltese Falcon, 1931 and SMAL was followed by the version we all know and love: The Maltese Falcon, 1941. A virtual who’s who of B-actors peopled the cast, Bette Davis and Warren William starring; with Alison Skipworth and Arthur Treacher leading the way of the supporting players.

 

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Satan Met a Lady miscellany, strange, mysterious, convoluted describes the novel, The Maltese Falcon and the film versions as well, but sometimes it takes real-life to bring the bona fide confusion! Examples: Leo F. Forbstein worked on all three of The Maltese Falcon projects. In 1931 Forbstein was the conductor of the Vitaphone Orchestra, and for the 1941 film, he again was the musical director (this time credited). Cinematographer Arthur Edeson handled the photography for the John Huston, 1941 Maltese Falcon. Orry-Kelly designed the costumes for the 1941 version. Eugene Joseff, was also the jeweler for The Maltese, 1931 (both films uncredited). Is that enough movie-making coincidence for one novel filmed three times? Nah, let’s have one more: Brown Holmes the screen-play writer for SMAL, had already done this once before, for the 1931, Maltese Falcon.

According to one report, Davis, at the direction of William Dieterle, slammed a set door so hard that it split in two, sagging on the lock and hinges.[4]

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Modern Screen, October, 1936

[2] Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin, August 5, 1936

[3] Motion Picture Daily, July 21, 1936

[4] Modern Screen, November, 1936

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