Ted Shane (Sam Spade)

Created by Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)

“Honey, it blows!”

TED SHANE was the name given to Sam Spades character in Satan Met a Lady (Warner Bros., 1936), the second film version of the Hammett classic, The Maltese Falcon. Generally considered not as good as the first, which starred Richard Cortez, and not even in the same cinematic universe when compared to the 1941 remake, directed by John Huston and starring Bogart.

According to reviews at the time, the film seemed “incapable of deciding whether to be a screwball comedy or a murder mystery.” Major changes were made to the original plot, the characters and even the title. None were for the better. Sam Spade is now a rather jovial and horse-faced Ted Shane (played by Warren Williams), the Fat Man is now the Fat Lady, Bette Davis is simply there to fill the dress as Miss Wonderly (rumours are she considered it the worst film she was ever in) and the legendary black bird is now a ram’s horn.

Yeah, a ram’s horn. The “Fabled Horn of Roland,” supposedly stuffed with jewels.

The consensus at the time was that it was poorly acted, forced and dull. Intended, perhaps, as a spoof, but of what?

Looking at it now, Williams gives a good — if peculiar –effort, playing Spade as a silver-tongued huckster, chewing up the scenery with gleeful abandon, licking his chops like some wolf from a Tex Avery cartoon, but it’s not enough. And the size of his noggin is distracting. I mean, really: was there ever an actor in Hollywood with a larger head? God, it’s immense!

At the end of the film, having finally grabbed the bejewelled horn, he gives it a tentative toot, and gives one of the best self-reviews in cinematic history:

“Honey, it blows,” he informs Miss Wonderly.

FILMS

  • SATAN MET A LADY | Buy this DVD
    (1936, Warner Brothers)
    74 minutes
    Screenplay: Brown Holmes
    Director: William Dieterle
    Starring Warren William as TED SHANE
    with Alison Skipworth as Madame Barabas
    and Bette Davis as Valerie Purvis
    Also starring Arthur Treacher, Winifred Shaw, Marie Wilson, Porter Hall, Olin Howlin, Charles C. Wilson, Barbara Blane, Maynard Holmes
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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