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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Maltese Falcon


by SJ SinC member, Jo Ann Lucas

There were three different movie treatments of The Maltese Falcon under different names, but the 1941 John Huston one is the most famous. For this movie props of the bird were made of both lead and plastic. two of the 4 pound, 5.4 ounce resin birds from the movie have been found. One (as of 2005 source of info) resides permanently in the Copyright Officer of the Library of Congress.

The other was found in a New Jersey flea market and sold for $92,000.00 in March of 2000.

Christie's auctioned off the lead model in 1994 for $398, 500.00. That's more than it cost to make the movie, and it was a record breaker for highest paid movie prop.

And in 1997 Harry Winston, Inc. -- the diamond and jewelry people -- made a ten pound replica in 18k gold. It is set with cabochon Burmese ruby eyes and has two sets of interchangeable claws, one gold and the other coral. If that wasn't enough, dangling from its beak is a platinum chain with a flawless 42.98 carat diamond. The Bird was valued at $8,000,000.00 by 2005. At today's prices -- Whew!

Indeed, "The stuff that dreams are made of."

From Wikipedia:

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Private eye Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are approached by Miss Wonderly to follow a man, Floyd Thursby, who allegedly ran off with her younger sister. The two accept the assignment because the money is good, but Spade also implies that the woman looks like trouble, though she projects wholesome innocence. That night, Detective Tom Polhaus informs Spade that Archer has been shot and killed while tailing Thursby. Even later that night, two officers visit Spade at his apartment and inquire about Spade's whereabouts in the last few hours. Spade asks what the visit is really about. The officers say that Thursby was also killed and that Spade is a suspect, since Thursby likely killed Archer. They have no evidence against Spade at the moment, but tell him that they will be conducting an investigation into the matter. The next day, Spade gets a visit from Archer's wife, with whom he has been having an affair. The widow asks Spade if he killed Miles so that they could be together. Spade dismisses her and tells her to leave, and coldly orders his secretary Effie to remove all of Archer's belongings from the office. He then goes to a new address left in a note from his client, whose name he learns is Brigid O'Shaughnessy. He also finds out that Brigid never had a sister, and Thursby was her acquaintance who had betrayed her. Later, Spade is visited by another man, Joel Cairo, who offers Spade $5000 if the private eye can retrieve a figurine of a black bird that has recently arrived. While Spade …

Marilyn Meredith's comment on the movie:

I recently re-watched this moive and frankly, there were places that I laughed out loud. I doubt very much that I did that the first time I saw it. 

The acting is rather stilted, and it seems to me that the plot itself left much to be desired. I'm sure I read the book that it was based upon, but don't really remember how I felt about it then.

About the acting, my husband says that back then, almost everyone acted like they were on stage. 

It was fun to see Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre on the screen again.

If you've never seen the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon, take a look at it and see what you think. 


  1. I remember the movie, The Maltese Falcon, from years ago. I loved it, but I'm like you, I have a feeling some of the acting would seem exaggerated now. I did find the book about three years ago and read it. I felt like I was walking the streets of San Francisco and found the writing style fabulous. I also read a book about Dashielle Hammett a few years ago. I believe it was fictionalized non-fiction. It was about Hammett, but I believe some "guessing" going on and some fiction added.

  2. Great column JoAnne and Marilyn. I look forward to the Big Read and March when we will celebrate all things Hammett!