On the Trail of The Black Bird…

The Whereabouts of the “Real” Maltese Falcon

As of March 1995, the original movie prop (two were made, but only one was used) from John Huston’s 1941 classic The Maltese Falcon had finally gone home to roost in San Francisco, site of the film and the original novel by Dashiell Hammett. The leaden statuette emerged from obscurity to be purchased by an unnamed bidder from California at auction by New York jewellers The House of Harry Winston, for $398,500 — considerably more than Casper Gutman thought ‘the dingus’ to be worth.

According to a report in The San Francisco Chronicle, the bird appeared on display during April 1995 at John’s Grill, a San Francisco eatery frequented by Hammett in his Pinkerton days and mentioned in the novel itself. (The owners of the diner bid unsuccessfully at the auction.).

Then in 2013, the black bird was sold once again, this time for a jaw-dropping $4,085,000, at an auction conducted by Bonhams in New York in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies.

According to The Hollywood Reporter “The price was at the high end of expert estimates for the piece. Bonhams had declined to offer a pre-sale estimate… The falcon statue was one of two made for the movie but the only one known to have appeared on film. According to Bonhams, markings on the statue — particularly a small dent from where the statue was dropped — can be matched to the one on film.”

And once again the buyer was unidentified.

Hmmm… at those prices, this replica doesn’t seem like such a bad deal at all…

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