Hammett (film)

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DVD release cover
Directed by Wim Wenders
Francis Ford Coppola (uncredited)
Produced by Fred Roos
Ronald Colby
Don Guest
Francis Ford Coppola
Mona Skager
Screenplay by Ross Thomas
Dennis O'Flaherty
Story by Thomas Pope (adaptation)
Based on Hammett 
by Joe Gores
Starring Frederic Forrest
Peter Boyle
Marilu Henner
Roy Kinnear
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Joseph Biroc
Edited by Janice Hampton
Marc Laub
Robert Q. Lovett
Randy Roberts
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Warner Bros.
(USA theatrical release)
Release dates
  • May 1982 (1982-05) (Cannes)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Hammett is a 1982 homage to noir films and pulp fiction produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Wim Wenders. The film is a fictionalized story about writer Dashiell Hammett, based on the novel of the same name by Joe Gores. The film was entered into the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

It stars Frederic Forrest, Marilu Henner and Peter Boyle.


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 is.

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.



German director Wenders was hired by Francis Ford Coppola to direct this film, which was to be his American debut feature. "But," according to one source, "by the time the final version was released in 1982, only 30 percent of Wenders' footage remained, and the rest was completely reshot by Coppola, whose mere 'executive producer' credit is just a technicality."[2] Wenders made a short film called Reverse Angle documenting his disputes with Coppola surrounding the making of Hammett. As The A.V. Club review states, "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."[2] The reviewer, though, never says what the source of his information is, and the question of the degree and nature of Coppola's involvement in the directing of the film remains open. However, the confusion surrounding the making of the movie "would certainly explain some of the films’ oddities."[3]


Actors Forrest and Henner were married during the long production of the film, then divorced shortly afterwards in 1983.

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.[4]

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).


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Hammett". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  2. ^ a b Noel Murray (2005-11-16). "Hammett review". The Onion A.V. Club. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  3. ^ Robert Munro (2011-11-05). "Hammett review". Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  4. ^ Synopsis of the film and its production at Zoetrope Studios site

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