John Huston made his directorial debut and Sydney Greenstreet his acting debut in 1941's THE MALTESE FALCON based on a story by Dashiell Hammet which had been filmed twice before this one.
The previous attempts prove conclusively that story alone does not make a perfect film, instead it's a combination of directing, casting, acting and story that come together to make a great film.
THE MALTESE FALCON is a great film.
Film Noir devotees often argue that since it was made in 1941 it doesn't qualify since the French Film Critiques didn't coin the term until after WWII-- but I would argue strongly that if any film fits the category this one does.
Humphrey Bogart plays Sam Spade, a jaded detective who is hired by a young woman to help her find her missing sister. When his partner is killed on the job it leads Spade into a downward spiral of murder, mystery and a centuries old treasure.
In the supporting cast are Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr-- giving the film a great lift everytime any of the them are on the screen. Spade's interaction with two tough city police detectives include some priceless lines:
When asked about his current working situation by one of the detectives, Spade calmly looks at the other one in the room and replies: "What's your boyfriend getting at?"
The story takes several twists and turns and features one of the darkest endings in cinema history.
The Maltese Falcon may not qualify 100% as Film Noir but it's a great place to start.