Friday, March 4, 2016

Classic Quotes Blogathon: The stuff that dreams are made of

This post is part of the Classic Quotes Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame.

The idea of the blogathon was to choose a quote that has become part of popular culture, preferably one from the AFI 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time. I loved the idea from the moment I saw it. One of the things that I love about classic film is that the dialog is great, so the chance to write about a classic quote was too good to pass up. Thus, we look at:
The stuff that dreams are made of 
The Maltese Falcon is one of those films where I love the dialog. Many of the most memorable lines were lifted right out of the Dashiell Hammett novel. The 1941 film is the third adaptation of the novel. Neither the 1931 film of the same name nor Satan Met a Lady (1937) made much of an impact. Director of the definitive version John Huston also wrote the screenplay and knew a good thing when he had it. Huston had got his start in Hollywood as a screenwriter, but he always had his eye on directing and usually wrote the screenplays for the films he directed. Huston must have done something right. The Maltese Falcon (1941) was nominated for three Oscars, Best Picture, Best Writing, Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Sydney Greenstreet. 

There are so many great lines in the film, and Humphrey Bogart's delivery as Sam Spade is impeccable:
Sam Spade: My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs. Spade didn't raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a district attorney, an assistant district attorney, and a stenographer.
Joel Cairo: You always have a very smooth explanation ready.
Sam Spade: What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?
Wilmer Cook: Keep on riding me and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver.
Sam Spade: The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.
Brigid O'Shaughnessy: You know whether you love me or not.
Sam Spade: Maybe I do. I'll have some rotten nights after I've sent you over, but that'll pass.

Of all the great lines in The Maltese Falcon, "The stuff that dreams are made of" is not even close to being my favorite. I much prefer the ones displayed above as well as many others. Still, these are not the lines that made it into popular culture, whereas "The stuff that dreams are made of" did.

To be fair, the quote is based on a quote from Shakespeare:

   Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
   As dreams are made on; and our little life
   Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 156–158

Also "The stuff that dreams are made of" did not appear in Dashiell Hammett novel. Humphrey Bogart reportedly suggested the line to John Huston, and they went with it. Bogart was a stage actor on Broadway before turning to film, so I presumably he was familiar with The Tempest.

I remember in college one of my professors telling a story about a former student who said, she didn't like Shakespeare because it was full of cliches. Obviously, they weren't cliches when Shakespeare wrote them, but he had a way of turning phrases that just stuck. A few lines earlier in the same speech, Prospero coins the term, vanish into thin air:

   Are melted into air, into thin air:     line 150

Well almost. These Shakespeare phrases enter into the language and get embraced by popular culture. They get twisted and modified, but the gist remains intact. In The Tempest, the context is more that life is but a dream and the reality is what happens when life ends. More on the Shakespeare quote is given here. In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade applies, "The stuff that dreams are made of" to the black bird, untold riches that you can get simply possessing an object.

The novel ends ever so slightly different than the film. After Brigid O'Shaughnessy is arrested, there is a brief scene with Sam Spade and his secretary the next day, and we learn the Sam intends to continue his relationship with his partner's wife. It's been a long time since I read the novel. I don't remember there being many changes. This is a change I could get behind. Sam Spade explaining that the falcon is, "The stuff that dreams are made of" and Mary Astor being take away is such a powerful ending. And as much as I love the rest of Sam Spade's patter, I can't begrudge, "The stuff that dreams are made of." It's the line that sticks with you and sums up the entire movie. It deserves its spot on the AFI list.

 Besides, what do you want me to do, learn to stutter.


  1. Great post! I had no idea this quote came from Shakespeare or that Bogie himself recommended the line. Wow- could you imagine if he didn't- how would we describe the Falcon then?? Thanks for partaking in my blogathon and I hope in the future we each can continue to each other's blogathons!

  2. It was a fun idea. I think I remember the line being Shakespeare from a film class, but had completely spaced it until I started researching the piece. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I learnt a lot from this article. I agree that "The Maltese Falcon" is full of many great quotes.

    Oh by the way, I'm hosting a blogathon in April, and would love to invite you to participate. The link is below with more details.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. Let me give yours some thought.

  5. Hahaha – Shakespeare is full of clichés!! Fabulous!

    Like you, I don't think "the stuff dreams are made of" is the best line from The Maltese Falcon, but it is fitting and has certainly has resonated with audiences.

    I'm doing a review of this film for the Beyond the Cover blogathon in April, and I'd like to link to your excellent review, if you're OK with that?

  6. Hi, Thanks for stopping by, I'd be honored if you link to me.