Hammett (film)

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DVD release cover
Directed byWim Wenders
Screenplay byRoss Thomas
Dennis O'Flaherty
Story byThomas Pope
Based onHammett
by Joe Gores
Produced byRonald Colby
Don Guest
Fred Roos
StarringFrederic Forrest
Peter Boyle
Marilu Henner
Roy Kinnear
CinematographyJoseph Biroc
Philip H. Lathrop[1]
Edited byJanice Hampton
Marc Laub
Robert Q. Lovett
Randy Roberts
Music byJohn Barry
Distributed byOrion Pictures
Warner Bros.
Release date
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7 million[2]
Box office$42,914

Hammett is a 1982 American neo-noir[3] mystery film directed by Wim Wenders and executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola. The screenplay was written by Ross Thomas and Dennis O'Flaherty, based on the novel of the same name by Joe Gores. It stars Frederic Forrest as detective story writer Dashiell Hammett, who gets caught up in a mystery very much like one of his own stories. Marilu Henner plays Hammett's neighbor, Kit Conger, and Peter Boyle plays Jimmy Ryan, an old friend from Hammett's days as a Pinkerton agent. The film was entered into the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.[4]


San Francisco-based Dashiell Hammett, trying to put his Pinkerton detective days behind him while establishing himself as a writer, finds himself drawn back into his old life one last time by the irresistible call of friendship and to honor a debt. In 1928, Hammett, known to his librarian neighbor Kit and other acquaintances as "Sam" is holed up in a cheap apartment, hard at work at his typewriter each day. He drinks heavily, smokes too much and has coughing fits. One day, a friend and mentor from his Pinkerton days, Jimmy Ryan, turns up with a request, that Hammett help him track down a Chinese prostitute named Crystal Ling in the Chinatown district of San Francisco, an area Hammett is more familiar with than Ryan. Hammett is soon pulled into a multi-layered plot, losing the only copy of his manuscript, wondering how and why Ryan has vanished, being followed by a tough-talking gunsel, discovering a million-dollar blackmail scheme and being deceived by the diabolical Crystal, right up to a final confrontation near the San Francisco wharf.



Critically acclaimed German director Wim Wenders was hired by Francis Ford Coppola to direct Hammett as his American debut feature. Coppola and the film's financing studio, Orion, were dissatisfied with the original version and nearly the entire film was reshot. This led to allegations that most of it was directed by Coppola: The A.V. Club review of the 2005 DVD even claimed "only 30 percent of Wenders' footage remained, and the rest was completely reshot by Coppola, whose mere "executive producer" credit is just a technicality"; the reviewer does not give any sources (noting "A Coppola or Wenders commentary track might have sorted things out a bit — or at least settled an old score — but the bare-bones DVD release leaves viewers with a fascinating mess"), but argues "The finished product is clearly more Coppola than Wenders, since its period soundstage aesthetic so closely resembles One From The Heart, The Cotton Club, and other '80s Coppola productions."[5] Another 2011 review mentions "rumours that Coppola was unhappy with Wenders’ directorial efforts and thus re-shot and re-edited much of the film himself, although Wenders denies this. It would certainly explain some of the film's oddities."[6]

Wenders made a 17-minute "diary film" Reverse Angle (1992), which deals among others with "the editing process of HAMMETT in the presence of Francis Ford Coppola".[7] In a 2015 interview, Wenders with "no traces of bitterness" stated unambiguously that he directed the reshoot (although Coppola tended to micro-manage his productions direction-wise): "there wasn’t much money left, and I was too stubborn to drop it and or say, “Well then let somebody else do it.” Francis [Ford Coppola] was too stubborn to fire me so we stuck it out and we respected each other in spite of all the conflict." The reshoot was "entirely in one sound stage", which Wenders avoids: "The first film was shot entirely on location […] in real places in San Francisco." Of that, "In the final product ten shots survived from my original shoot: only exteriors […] a couple of shots from the first, maybe 5% of the film from the first version." When Wenders later wanted to finish and release his director's cut as "an interesting case study", he found the material was destroyed: "They only kept a cut negative, everything else is junked."[8]


Boyle took over the role of Jimmy Ryan from Brian Keith, who left allegedly because the lengthy production conflicted with other commitments. Keith can be seen in some long shots in the film. A number of actors from the "Golden Age" of Hollywood were cast in the film, including Hank Worden, Royal Dano and Elisha Cook, Jr. (who played Wilmer "the gunsel" in John Huston's 1941 film The Maltese Falcon).[9]


  1. ^ "Joseph F. Biroc".
  2. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  3. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Hammett". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  5. ^ Noel Murray (2005-11-16). "Hammett review". The Onion A.V. Club. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
  6. ^ Robert Munro (2011-11-05). "Hammett review". Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  7. ^ "Reverse Angle | Wim Wenders Stiftung".
  8. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (2015-03-25). "Wim Wenders Sets The Record Straight On His Forgotten Francis Ford Coppola-Produced Noir 'Hammett' | IndieWire". www.indiewire.com. Retrieved 2016-09-10.
  9. ^ "Hammett 1982". Zoetrope.com. Retrieved January 13, 2017.

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