I Found the Maltese Falcon

lobbyIt’s “the stuff that dreams are made of,” Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) famously says of the elusive, titular statuette in John Huston’s THE MALTESE FALCON.

Although none of the larcenous lead characters in the 1941 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel succeeds in landing the legendary “black bird”, one lucky – and well-heeled – fan in 2013 will.  And he or she won’t even have to bump anybody off.

On Monday, Bonhams, in conjunction with TCM, will auction off what they say is “the only statuette confirmed by Warner Bros. Archives as having appeared on screen” in the iconic film noir. But don’t bother calling Joel Cairo, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, or the Fat Man, because they probably can’t afford it. And neither, likely, can you.

FalconBut if you’re anywhere near New York City this weekend, you can see The Maltese Falcon live and up close for free — along with more than 300 other rare props, costumes, scripts, photos, and posters. On Saturday and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m., the Bonhams gallery at 580 Madison Avenue (between 56th and 57th Streets) will be open to the public for a preview of What Dreams Are Made Of: A Century of Movie Magic at Auction, As Curated by Turner Classic Movies.  And the best part about it – you don’t have to be a prospective bidder to attend.

Bonhams held a special reception and press preview last night, and, in addition to gawking at the Falcon for about 15 solid minutes, I also got this close to some other priceless relics of American film, including: a gorilla soldier costume from THE PLANET OF THE APES (1968), John Wayne’s cowboy hat from EL DORADO (1966), Steve McQueen’s racing jacket from LE MANS (1971), Indy’s whip from INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989), a package of Chuck Heston’s favorite “miracle food” from SOYLENT GREEN (1973), Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson’s costumes from the Tim Burton Batman movies, Joan Crawford’s polka dot dress from MILDRED PIERCE, a Martian War Machine model from WAR OF THE WORLDS, Lauren and Hardy’s derby hats, a joke file written in W.C. Fields’ own hand, a Marx Bros animation cell signed by Walt Disney, and producer Hal Wallis’ working script from CASABLANCA. I also got a chance to meet and chat with Stephen Bogart, the son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who was fiddling with his smartphone and taking pictures of his friends in front of the Michael Keaton’s costume from BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

Mr. Bogart was kind enough to let me take this picture of him, with the Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade’s chair behind:


Stephen Bogart at Bonhams on November 22, 2013. (Photo by Will.)

If you’re not able to get to the Big Apple this weekend, don’t get mad and rough up a gaudy gunsel. Just sit back and enjoy all the pictures I took, which are posted here (click on each one for a description). I even shot a little video of the Falcon itself, which I think may have been a no-no, but nobody called the cops. Look for the cameo appearance from the Bonhams guard, who just happens to double-check that the storeroom is locked as I get near it with my camera. Apparently I’m more of a suspicious character than I thought.

You can follow the auction live on Monday, beginning at 1 p.m., here.  (They estimate it may take as long as five hours to get through all 309 items.) If you don’t hear from me afterwards, that means I’ve either absconded with the Maltese Falcon for parts unknown, or been arrested for attempting it. Either way, it’s been nice knowing you. I’m sure you’ll always remember me, precious.

About willmckinley

I'm a New York City-based writer, video producer, print journalist, radio/podcast host, and social media influencer. I've been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by Robert Osborne), NPR, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the official TCM podcast. My byline has appeared in Slate.com and more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News. I'm also a social media copywriter for Sony's getTV and a contributor to four film-and-TV-related books: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial," "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial," and "Remembering Jonathan Frid."
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13 Responses to I Found the Maltese Falcon

  1. Elise says:

    I’m totally in if you need an accomplice.

  2. Much as I love Bogeyb it is Audry Hepburn’s hat from Funny Face that I would be bidding on…I have a thing about hats you see…thanks for all the photos you have shared…

  3. Much as I love Bogey it is Audry Hepburn’s hat from Funny Face that I would be bidding on…I have a thing about hats you see…thanks for all the photos you have shared…

  4. Sarah says:

    Paradise. This is my version of paradise. I’d love to just sit in that chair! What fun Will! Thank you for posting this. Terrific pictures too. In the Bonhams’ catalog for this auction there’s a script for the third Thin Man Movie….I can’t stop thinking about it! I know, not The Maltese Falcon….,

  5. Is it too much to ask that I be able to buy just one of those great posters? I think not.

    • willmckinley says:

      Karen, the three-sheet from HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is only estimated to sell for $1,000-$1,500, which is not bad for a vintage, restored, mounted-on-archival-linen poster like that. It would cost about $500 just for mounting and shipping.

  6. The Lady Eve says:

    Thank you for the tour, Will! Much as I’d love to get my hands on the (formerly) Black Bird or at least see it in person, I’m not anywhere near NYC right now and thoroughly enjoyed the glimpse you provided. What dreams are made of, indeed…

  7. Gorgeous photos! I got a chill when I saw the shooting script for “Casablanca”.

    The costumes are stunning. I bet it was such a thrill to see them in person. Thanks for sharing this experience. 🙂

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