The stuff that dreams are made of
February 22, 2016 10:07 AM   Subscribe

It is one of the most iconic props in film history. For 75 years since Humphrey Bogart tracked down The Maltese Falcon, various collectors have claimed to have the Falcon itself. Some of them must be wrong. Vanity Fair put the properly-alliterative Bryan Burrough on the case, and of course, a shadowy mystery ensued.

Bonus: To celebrate the anniversary, you might be able to catch the movie on the big screen.
posted by Etrigan (37 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
All fakes. Everybody knows asavage has the real one.
posted by gwint at 10:12 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well that's appropriately self-referential.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:12 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


the Golden Nugget flea market, in Lambertville, New Jersey

omg, I've been there.

It's exactly the kind of place the Maltese falcon statuette would be found lying around next to a box of playboys and discarded car parts.
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I thought I had tracked it down once, but it was just some jewel-encrusted golden statuette that was painted black to resemble the prop.
posted by ckape at 10:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


Poor Malta, no one ever wants to return it .
posted by The Whelk at 10:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's exactly the kind of place the Maltese falcon statuette would be found lying around next to a box of playboys and discarded car parts.

To be fair, that's true of just about any flea market.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:36 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Conrad Falcon had a notable fate. Christie’s put it up for auction in December 1994, and it sold to the New York jeweler Ronald Winston, son of the famed Harry Winston, for $398,500, then a record price for a movie prop. The Falcon so captured Winston’s imagination that he wrote a short play about what might have happened to the fictional Falcon after the story told in the 1941 film. He hired a well-known Bogart look-alike, Tony Heller, to play Sam Spade and staged the play as a private event for a select group of invited guests.

this is much better use of crazy rich person money than buying a senator.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 AM on February 22, 2016 [30 favorites]


There's a guy in town who has one in his antique shop (not for sale). I asked him where he got the stuff that dreams were made of, and he had no idea what I was talking about.

You... you imbecile! You bloated idiot! You stupid fat-head, you!
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:47 AM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


I used to work for a fading former television sitcome star in New Orleans who was utterly convinced he had the real one. He had been decorating the set for his office when the show started, and one of the prop guys brought him the falcoln, and he just kept it, convinced it was the real one.

One look at it told you it wasn't. But he had also bought all the tapes from an old radio show and insisted he now owned the rights. I asked him if he checked who owned the copyright, or even if it was still under copyright, and he looked at me blankly and then explained that because he owned the tapes, he owned the copyright. I looked it up later and it was in the public domain.

I'm sure he'll go to his grave thinking he owns the original falcon and the rights to a radio show, and who is happier?

I am. The guy was miserable.
posted by maxsparber at 10:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


Well mine's a fake, I'm pretty sure of that.
posted by davros42 at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2016


Well, the "real" Maltese Falcon was a fake, therefore if your falcon is a fake, then it is real.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:08 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


All I have is the Maltese Cup Cake.
posted by delfin at 11:08 AM on February 22, 2016



Well, the "real" Maltese Falcon was a fake, therefore if your falcon is a fake, then it is real.


It's Falcons all the way down. Falconception.
posted by davros42 at 11:11 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I thought it was interesting to see the falcon tied to Elizabeth Short. More than 60 people confessed to her murder, of whom 25 were considered credible suspects — even more than the number of people claiming to have a falcon!
posted by ubiquity at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2016


also that book Black Dahlia Avenged goes into like ..a weird From Hell murder sex cult place.
posted by The Whelk at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2016


Ugh. This article gave me a headache. I need , clearly, to write up my thoughts on the matter.

But the Falcon is why I keep the address of my Cave a secret...
posted by asavage at 11:23 AM on February 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


A while back I thought for sure I had a genuine Falcon on my hands, but I dropped it and some of the paint on it scraped off, revealing this gaudy piece of junk. No way was that the one in the movie, so I threw it away for some sucker with no knowledge of film history to fawn over.
posted by Copronymus at 11:37 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Today it sits, along with a pair of Picassos, a Matisse, and a Giacometti sculpture, in a meeting room in Wynn’s Las Vegas villa.

Ocean's 11 reboot plot confirmed!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


A replica that was stolen from a restuarant here in San Francisco was replaced with a replica of a replica.
posted by njohnson23 at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2016


maxsparber, after a little bit of searching I think I've figured out who the would-be Maltese Falcon owner from your story is, and now I kind of wish I hadn't gone looking. Corollary to "Never meet your heroes": Never wonder what people from old sitcoms do now that they aren't on sitcoms.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


An interesting question is if there was actually a "real" falcon in the universe of the novel or the film. We only know about from what Gutman's gang says but maybe they're totally deluded and there never is or was a real falcon.
posted by octothorpe at 2:06 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


The text crawl at the beginning of the film says there was a real falcon.
posted by ogooglebar at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is it a reliable text crawl?
posted by thelonius at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It hasn't let me down yet.
posted by ogooglebar at 3:09 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I forgot about the text crawl. I'm pretty sure that the novel doesn't have any omniscient mention of the falcon but my copy of the book is somewhere in a box in my garage so I can't look it up.
posted by octothorpe at 3:17 PM on February 22, 2016


It's the stuff that makes the stuff that dreams are made of.
posted by markkraft at 3:25 PM on February 22, 2016


The Malted Falcon?!
posted by markkraft at 3:31 PM on February 22, 2016


I'm pretty sure that the novel doesn't have any omniscient mention of the falcon

I believe you're correct. Here is the text of Chapter One, which doesn't have any omniscient prologue like the film. Also, this teacher's guide for the book points out, "The Maltese Falcon employs a third-person objective point or view."
posted by ogooglebar at 3:36 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


now I kind of wish I hadn't gone looking

Yeah, I liked him befit I knew him too.
posted by maxsparber at 4:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


We could ask Flitcraft, but they're not back from lunch yet.
posted by Devonian at 5:46 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well mine's a fake, I'm pretty sure of that.

As is mine as well, unfortunately. It would be kind of interesting to find out how many of us Mefites have one.

I found mine when on a "so bored I'll just cruise around town" trip and I randomly stopped at one of those places that are nowhere near fancy (or expensive) enough to be considered an antique store, but "classy" enough that the terms "resale shop," "junk store," and certainly "crap shack," would seem a bit unfair and harsh.

For a city as big as Chicago, I rarely have hope of finding anything that is both very interesting AND cheap in those stores. That combo tends to get picked up very quick, and it's often just dumb luck that you find something like that in that brief period of time where it is between owners.

Finding a replica Maltese Falcon might not be too hard these days, but it's a lot harder to find an antique, working, Ronson "Touch Tip" table lighter like the one in the film in good condition without dropping a couple hundred dollars. It just seems everyone who sells them knows full well what they are worth. I gave up the search a decade ago, and decided to leave the matter in the hands of random dumb luck.
posted by chambers at 7:38 PM on February 22, 2016


chambers at 10:38 PM on February 22: It would be kind of interesting to find out how many of us Mefites have one.

Me. About 30? years ago, there was a small ad in the back of The New Yorker for (surprisingly affordable) Maltese Falcons.

To the vendor's credit, it arrived in a cardboard box, packed in excelsior, wrapped in newspaper tied with string. I brought it in off the porch and got to shout at my wife to "Douse the lights!" while I nervously unwrapped it.

It turned out to be a fake.

However, the resultant trip to Istanbul produced some stories that I still dine out on.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ronson "Touch Tip" table lighter

I had no idea about these things so I had to go looking; I stumbled across the "Streamline" model and thought to myself "Ah yes, back when they really knew how to design a lighter: in a wind tunnel!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:41 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I saw the 75th anniversary theater screening of it tonight and it was such a pleasure watching it with other people (and usually I'd be so content to have a theater completely to myself). At the end, the audience clapped, which under normal circumstances makes me want to scream "IT IS ON FILM THEY CANNOT HEAR YOU" but tonight was charming and I joined in.

Incredible to think that this was Sydney Greenstreet's debut at age 62.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I saw the big screen showing Sunday night (there were five of us in the theater) and enjoyed it so much I went back last night (just three of us that time). I don't think there was anyone under 50 in attendance either night. Both my sons know the film, of course, but many of their friends have never even heard of it.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:50 AM on February 25, 2016


It really such an amazing film for a first time director to have made; I'd put it against Citizen Kane for the greatest debut feature. I love how Huston realized how strong the source material was and almost shot it scene for scene something that would fail with most novels but works so well here. This is one of those films where everything works, the screenplay, the camera work, the editing, and especially the casting.
posted by octothorpe at 8:13 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is one of those films where everything works, the screenplay, the camera work, the editing, and especially the casting.

I agree wholeheartedly with all of this, except the last. The cast would have been perfect, if Mary Astor had not been so badly miscast as Brigid O'Shaughnessy. For the longest time, I felt it was because Astor was ten years older than the character as described in the book, making it hard for her to put over Brigid's "schoolgirl act." But Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle pinpointed the real problem: she never really makes you believe that Bogart's Sam Spade could truly fall in love with her. As result, it takes considerable willful suspension of disbelief to accept his ambivalence about trusting her, which is the central tension of the last third of the film.

Your point about Huston's faithfulness to the source is spot-on: much of the dialogue is lifted word-for-word from the novel, and it works, which is a remarkable achievement.

Not only is Huston's Falcon a great film in its own right, it's also the greatest re-make of all time.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:32 AM on February 25, 2016


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