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Film / Satan Met a Lady

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Satan Met a Lady is a 1936 film directed by William Dieterle, starring Warren William and Bette Davis.

Private detective Ted Shane (Warren William) comes back home to San Francisco and gets himself a job as partner to private detective Milton Ames. Shane has a Friends with Benefits thing going with sexy secretary Miss Murgatroyd, and also used to be Mrs. Ames's boyfriend—and Mrs. Ames is clearly more interested in Ted than she is in her husband.

Enter Valerie Purvis, a mysterious lady who hires Shane and Ames to find a man who promised to marry her. She believes her potential fiance to be in the company of a man named Farrow. Ames takes the job shadowing Farrow, but in short order both Farrow and Ames are murdered. Shane finds himself attracted to Valerie the Femme Fatale even as he suspects her of murder, and meanwhile, the cops suspect Shane. Then a mysterious man comes to Shane's office, looking for a jewel-encrusted ram's horn.

If any of that sounds familiar, it's because this movie is actually an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, which had already been adapted in 1931 as The Maltese Falcon and would again be adapted, more faithfully and much more successfully, as The Maltese Falcon in 1941.


  • Adaptational Name Change: All the names are changed, as if the makers didn't want viewers to know it was a remake. Sam Spade becomes "Ted Shane".
  • Affably Evil: The Joel Cairo character in this film is a British guy named Anthony Travers, and he's even more polite than Peter Lorre was. He doesn't pull a gun on Shane and he apologizes profusely after Shane catches him absolutely trashing Shane's apartment.
  • As You Know: Ames's wife is making all kinds of mating signals towards Shane, and Ames doesn't like it.
    Ames: Now look here, Shane, I know she used to be in love with you years ago, before she married me.
  • Battle in the Rain: This version omits the Almost Dead Guy stumbling into Shane's office. Instead he's shot dead on the pier by the bad guys right as he's about to meet Shane in a pouring rain. A wild scramble for the horn ensues which ends with Shane getting the horn and getting the drop on the others.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Kenneth's ineffectual villainy is underlined when Shane shoots the gun out of his hands.
  • Breach of Promise of Marriage: Valerie's excuse for hiring Ames and Shane in this version, namely, that she's following a man who promised to marry her. (In the other films she claims to be looking for a lost sister.)
  • For the Evulz: When Valerie realizes the jig is up, she surrenders to a random woman on the train, just to prevent Shane from claiming the $10,000 reward. He doesn't really mind.
  • Gender Flip: In maybe the most surprising change, the role of the fat man, Casper Gutman, is changed to a woman, Madame Barabbas. She's the aunt of the ineffectual young gunman who is clearly coded to be Gutman's lover in both of the other two films.
  • Hand of Death: A mysterious hand enters the frame to shoot Farrow to death in the graveyard.
  • Kubrick Stare: Kenneth does this more than once to Shane, whom he longs to kill. It's less scary than it might be as Kenneth is a very ineffectual villain.
  • Lighter and Softer: A far zanier work than either the novel or the 1941 film. After The Thin Man married a hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett novel with Screwball Comedy and resulted in a smash hit, Warner Brothers tried to do the same with this novel.
  • Like a Son to Me: A line common to all four versions of this story has the head of the bad guys, in this case Madame Barabbas, saying of the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain that "He's been more than a son to me." In this one it's Shane who follows that with "You can get another son," when demanding she hand Kenneth over as the fall guy.
  • MockGuffin: In the book and the 1931 and 1941 films, the bird is simply a fake. In this version a history professor confirms for Shane that while the ram's horn might date to the Middle Ages, it can't possibly have any jewels in it. It turns out to be filled with sand.
  • Mythology Gag: The reference to Satan in the title is kind of meaningless, unless you have read the Dashiell Hammett novel and know that in the book Sam Spade is described as looking like a "blond Satan".
  • Ominous Fog: A foggy, spooky graveyard is where Ames follows Farrow and where he gets killed.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Madame Barabbas, head of the gang of murderous thieves, is introduced cradling a cat.
  • Sexy Secretary: One plot element this adaptation keeps is the sexy secretary (here given the silly name of Miss Murgatroyd) who is clearly willing to put out whenever Shane likes in a Friends with Benefits way. She hops up on the desk provocatively when Shane wants her to take a letter.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: Madame Barabbas fires a shot to shut up Shane and Kenneth when their fight starts getting nasty.