The Maltese Falcon
Ch. 2: Maltese Falcon
San Francisco, California
In the 1990’s an original Maltese Falcon from the movie was reportedly sold for more than 1 million dollars. There were only 2 known to exist. It has been uncovered that there may have been a third Maltese Falcon. This one may have been the real one containing real jewels. may not be trusted in the search for what seemed to be only a movie prop.
The Real Story Behind The Maltese Falcon
The 1941 Oscar-nominated film starring Humphrey Bogart was an instant critical and commercial success, and it has become a Hollywood classic. In bringing author Dashiell Hammett’s mystery to the screen, however, director John Huston inadvertently created a real mystery: several lead and resin falcon props were created for the film after Bogart accidentally dropped and dented the original, but no one is sure exactly how many were made. Hammett reportedly based his fictional Falcon on a late 17th-century ceremonial pouring vase in the form of a hawk made for Count George William von Kniphausen; this piece, which still can be seen at Chatsworth House in Devonshire, England, was encrusted with emeralds, amethysts, sapphires and garnets, but it bears little resemblance to the iconic statuette of the film.
The whereabouts of only four of the original Falcon props are now known: two lead ones, weighing nearly 50 pounds apiece, and either one or two much lighter resin ones, which were more likely to have been used in scenes where the Falcon was carried around. One of the two lead props was sold at auction to a private collector in 1994 for just under $400,000, setting the record price for a piece of movie memorabilia, and both lead Falcons are now valued at roughly $2 million apiece ? ironically, the same dollar value attributed to the fictional Falcon in the film. A media producer claims to have re-discovered one of the resin props in 1991, but the piece has been dogged by skepticism and is still up for auction.
One problem for would-be Falcon hunters is the wide availability of convincing replicas, and even those are highly sought-after: in 2007, one such item was stolen from a display case at John’s Grill in San Francisco, a Sam Spade haunt mentioned in the novel, and was never recovered. The authentic lead Falcon auctioned in 1994 became the model for the most expensive replica ever produced, a 10-pound solid-gold falcon with Burmese ruby eyes, valued at over $8 million, which was displayed during the 69th Academy Awards in 1997.