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Literature / The Glass Key

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The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett is a 1931 Hardboiled Detective novel adapted most famously as a 1942 Film Noir directed by Stuart Heisler and starring Alan Ladd, Brian Donlevy, and Veronica Lake.

After Ned (Ed in the movie) Beaumont finds a politician's son murdered, his best friend and local political heavyweight Paul Madvig is considered the prime suspect—especially by Taylor's sister Janet.

Tropes used in the novel and 1942 film:

  • Adaptational Heroism: characters are significantly nastier in the novel than the film.
    • The Senator confesses his crime at the end of the film in order to save Janet. In the novel, his first reaction is to attempt to murder Paul to continue the coverup.
    • Janet Henry is less antagonistic to Paul Madvig than she is purely interested in finding out the truth about her brother's death in the film.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Opal Madvig is only ever referred to as "Snip."
  • Bittersweet Ending: Taylor Henry's death has been solved, and Ned and Janet are about to leave town together... but she has to leave her father behind to do it. Paul Madvig is preparing to rebuild his political empire... but will have to do it without his best friend or the woman he was in love with.
  • Brains and Brawn: Paul Madvig is the brawn to Beaumont's brains.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Beaumont is subjected to repeated beatings.
  • Corrupt Politician: Madvig...who may have made a slight mistake by throwing his lot in with Senator Henry, a reform candidate.
  • Graceful Loser: Madvig, slightly more so in the film.
    Madvig: [goes to shake Janet's hand, removes the ring from it] ...but if you think you're getting married with my rock, you're nuts.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: The Senator requests this in the novel. It isn't granted.
  • Taking the Heat: Beaumont suspects Madvig is doing this for the entire novel. He's right.