Clive Owen in “Monsieur Spade.” Jean-Claude Lother/AMC

Clive Owen (“Inside Man,” “Croupier”) appears this week on AMC’s “Monsieur Spade” as Sam Spade.

If that classic name seems familiar to you, you’re a lot older than you look.

Sam Spade was famously the name on an office window atop Hyde Street in San Francisco, where the cable cars still turn. It spelled out “Spade and Archer Private Detectives.”

The late actor Jerome Cowan was Archer in John Huston’s 1941 classic “Maltese Falcon.”

Must I go on? I will.

Sam, back then, was, of course, Humphrey Bogart, the “hard-boiled” private detective created by the famous Dashiell Hammett, whose real first name was Sam.


“Maltese Falcon,” you may recall, was the black statue that “dreams are made of.”

The box office for the film started slowly, but over the decades became one of the most famous movies of all time — and was directed by John Huston, who was the son of actor Walter Huston, who appeared, without lines, as a victim.

The femme fatale of that great film was Mary Astor, who played Brigid O’Shaughnessy, whom Sam Spade sent to prison for murdering Archer. Brigid was part of Sam’s dream.

In my opinion, it should have been left a dream.

But now, veteran producer and writer Tom Fontana (“Oz” and “Homicide: Life on the Street”) and director Scott Frank, who also serves as a producer and writer, have brought elements of that great classic to France, with an aging, sort of, Sam Spade, replayed not by a very American actor like Bogart, but a not so aging, and not so Spade, English actor Clive Owen.

This cinematic Sam Spade now pops up 20 years later, after putting Brigid in the “big house,” and living in an opulent mansion in the South of France. Here, as he always does, he falls for a local vineyard owner. It happens.


The time once again moves on and we find ourselves viewing Spade, some years later. He is now a widower (well, it happens) and quietly living as a retiree. But to quote New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

To be fair, I’ve only seen the first two of the six segments of “Monsieur Spade.” Out of respect for the legend and Owen, I will give the series my full attention for all six.

As an old fan of Bogart’s Spade, it’s difficult for me to picture Owen — an actor of worth — playing Dashiell Hammett’s famed hard-boiled detective.

But, in fairness, here’s what the creators (Frank and Fontana) have put on your home screen.

At the start, Spade is doing a favor for his old nemesis, O’Shaughnessy, delivering her little girl to a village. Where? To whom? Do you want it all revealed?

We then flash ahead — and back — and ahead again. We’re in the 1950s, and the legendary Spade is enjoying his retirement in the South of France. Spade in France? Was he still looking for Ilsa Lund? Oops, wrong picture. But that’s an idea worth pursuing.


More years pass, I think, when Sam returns to a convent in the same village where the little girl is now a teenager.

This is, we discover, a troubled convent. Look out! Six nuns have been “brutally” murdered.

Luckily, Sam Spade is here, and by golly, we’re in a whole new Spade mystery. With the whole village startled and frightened, secrets emerge. Don’t they always?

Of course, Spade, alerted to clues, learns the murders are thought to be the work of one “mysterious child” who is believed to possess great powers.”

I think, due to the deadline for this column, you’ll find out what those are before I do.

The players are well cast and well played Louise Bourgoin (“The Romanoffs”) as Marguerite Devereaux, Chiara Mastroianni (“On a Magical Night”) as Gabrielle, and Rebecca Root (“The Queen’s Gambit”) as Cynthia Fitzsimmons.” (We can see a bevy of femme fatales have followed Sam to France.)


We meet Stanley Weber (“Outlander”) as Jean-Pierre Devereaux and Matthew Beard (“The Imitation Game”) as George Fitzsimmons.

And the game plays on.

“Monsieur Spade” debuted on Jan. 14 on AMC, AMC+ and Acorn, with episodes releasing weekly on each platform.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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