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The Maltese Falcon, a film produced in 1931, is a story of a private detective from San Francisco by the name Sam Spade. The story starts with a big boom where Miss Ruth hires Spade and his partner to assist in the search of his sister and another man called Thursby Floyd. Miss Ruth being one of the people who are searching for the missing people, they added the number to three thus the book Maltese. Thursby and Archer are later murdered and a captain is seen delivering a statuette to spade's office and immediately dies on spot. The total number of dead people and yet to be investigated totaled up to three yet the whole investigation turned out to be a game between the rat and the cat. It was like a vicious circle between the Wonderly, Dr Joel and Spade. Gutman was a rich English man who could influence the police force not to get the truth, and Spade also had a deal with the police to pin him down over the three killings. During the time for Spade to investigate certain murders, he finds himself involved in a deep search for a highly valued falcon statuette- the first ever produced treasure of its kind during the years of crusade. The Maltese Falcon has proved to be a good movie, ostensibly beating many viewers' expectations. The film is considered one of the most popular pre-code films, after several versions in the form of TV series and many other versions were produced in later years. It is also considered the most the first of its kind in the murder mystery film industry, with many historians stating that it is the first ever film noir gene, with its low budget production. The producer John Huston with his skillful approach to the film production is one of the pioneers in this genre. The Maltese Falcon is an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's 1929 novel with the similar title- a fictitious story of a detective encountering several incidences of murder and treachery. The Maltese Falcon is a classical example of film producers' attempts to highlight various aspects of the society and how people face challenges of distrust, immorality, illegal deals and selfishness.
The film begins with a story line where one private detective Spade and his colleague, Miles Archer, are hired by Ms Ruth. The two are hired to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Ruth's sister and another man known as Floyd. The revelation comes in that Archer and Floyd have been murdered. It is in this incident that Spade comes across a discovery that Miss Ruth constitutes the three people involved in the search for a statuette known as the Maltese Falcon. Eventually, a seriously wounded captain of a ship delivers the much sought statuette to Spade's office, then mysteriously drops dead. This constitutes three murders Spade has to deal with, and the case revolves into a cat-and-mouse game involving the investigator Spade, Miss Ruth and one Casper Gutman, a rich Englishman. A fourth person involved in the case is Dr. Joel Cairo, described by Layman (2003, p.12) as "effeminate continental European". In addition Spade had to deal with the police, who are hell-bent to charge him with the murder of the three. The film's early preview shows that it was a production shown within the shortest time possible. In this case, its title was The Gent from Fiasco, which was premiered in 1929, two years before the release of the Maltese Falcon (Layman, 2003).
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Distrust within our dynamic society
The Maltese Falcon film was shot in 1931 after World War I and joins a group of films with varied genres in illustrating distrust of everything foreign in US during this period. In fact, the characters are all foreigners and the places in which the film is shot are foreign. According to Luhr (1995), everything in the film seems exotic, and "often perverse, sexually overcharged, and dangerous" (p.11). It goes without saying that even Falcon in itself is foreign. It has gone through Maltese, Gutman, Cairo, and O'Shaughnessy, who managed to move with all over foreign land in what turns out to be evil and murderous travels. They eventually land with it in San Francisco where they meet Spade. In other words, the very presentation of foreign cities as well as countries is a clear indication of cultural mix of the film, representing the cultural climate of the 1930s. This is compounded with the presentation that the society is turning to be murderous to its own people, with illusionary desire to possess priceless treasures.
Spades role as one who is fighting the evil is not entirely evil-free. He fails a saint-test as he is having an affair with his partner's wife (Luhr, 1995). Again, Spade's encounter with the law suggests that he is one who ironically breaks the law he is supposed to protect. He sometimes can be seen to cross over to side of the outlaws. He is so comfortable with serial criminals and finds a way in which he relates to them, maneuvering his ways throughout, in a style that is liked by the criminals themselves. But one trait that separates him from the rest of crew members is his obvious lack of sociopathic habit. This is seen in other actors in the film such as Gutman, Cairo, and O'Shaughnessy. In fact, he is portrayed as having his own measure of responsible and moral conduct that separates him from the rest, despite numerous encounter and involvement with them. Spade is being photographed repeatedly, illustrating his dark side of life, implicating his turbulent life associated with various activities he participates, and he acts morally, with coherent reason why he is doing so (Luhr, 1995). He leaves others to continue with their criminal life. In Luhr's view, Spade is a representation of American way of life- flawed but 'desirable' (Luhr, 1995). The film also share widespread isolationism American prejudices on the eve of World War II. It is possible to acknowledge that crime is seen as very close to mundane life, and that society sometimes treats the criminals as heroes.
Crime as a source of masculinity in the early films
It is noted that the producers of the film started the theme of crime as part of out society. Together with dramatic events and cities cast in a classical fashion, it suggests that the beginning of crime film evolution (Layman, 2003). Layman maintains that crime is a satisfied resource for presenting masculinity. He maintains that early films were cast with the societal notion that boys and men commit more serious crimes than women and girls. In the film, it is observed that Floyd is portrayed as a criminal by hiding Ruth's sister. Criminals in the film are predominantly men, suggesting the belief in the early productions that women were less likely to be involved in serious criminal activities.
Priestman (2003) notes that crime is a "strategy of masculinity" and that there are many forms of masculinity. For example, although there are many forms of masculinity in The Maltese Falcon, some emerge predominant over the others. His suggestion is that in any historical period, there are basically two idealized gender types: hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity and that their defining features do change chronologically.
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This form masculinity change produces crises in the society- as the same society will judge the eventual winners in the crime activities as heroes and heroines. According to some analysts, the connection of these kinds of films is associated with eve of World War II, where masculinity was defined in terms of physical strength that led to dominance. The Maltese Falcon shows that this notion was deeply rooted in the society. However, as time went by in the 1960s, changes emerged that suggested that masculinity was being viewed more through technical knowledge acquired as learned skills. In fact, the latter is still seen as a very important aspect of our lives as presented in the modern film dramas such as Lost.
In his analysis of early crime films, Kiszely (2006) states that men have been dominant in this genre type of film and in a typical plot, women are presented as either good girls falling in love with bad men or a femme fatale, a dangerous woman who threatens the hero's dominance. This is practically seen in the The Maltese Falcon, where Miss Ruth threatens Spade's dominance or Ruth's sister representing a woman in love with a 'bad' man, Floyd.
Spade as a male detective is defines the genre of the film. While he manages to work with criminals to get access to his main goal, he is often portrayed as an iconoclastic loner; yet his strong internal morality reflects how the society's sense of justice dominates the human thought (Kiszely, 2006). This is despite the fact that his effort is reflected in a highly individualized fashion that does not reflect the entire society's interests. Layman (2005) argues that such figures are represented as ideal personalities, illustrating a hegemonic masculinity, although different class positions are apparently represented by other villains. Spade is an aggressive, authoritative figure who exposes intelligence, skill, daring and even physical prowess when he comes across challenges from other people. In many instances, women are portrayed as subordinate to and express their love for the man. In other words, the detective is the "repository of dominant notions of both justice and masculinity" (Kiszely, 2006).
However, there is need to consider taking some form of caution in this form of analysis and understanding. While there is some form of need for justice and the pursuance of it, masculinity in The Maltese Falcon somewhat represents some elements of a caricature. That is, sometimes the dominant character treats the law and the police with some form of derisive fashion. However, in this film, the hero Spade also reveals some negative aspects of masculinity by having an affair with his partner's wife. The crime scenes drive the story and expose them towards the basic components of the narrative. The role of the detective or investigator, Spade, is to bring everything in the right by apprehending and bringing the villains into the book of justice, and sometimes even ending up killing them. It is Spade's effort to unveil the criminals in the scene that brings pleasure to the audience and keeps them watching in this pioneer film of crime and investigations.
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The psychological motivation and cultural ideologies
The broad approach given to the film genres that involved crime and investigation issues started these early years, preceding World War I. the exploration of psychological motivation created its own niche within crime genre such as The Maltese Falcon. In Kiszely (2006) view, the treatment of crime in US film industry after World War II is totally different from that of 1930s, as the gangster type of films was full of realism in the gangster cycle of film production took center stage. The formulaic elements used in the The Maltese Falcon include areas such as standard plots, situations and characters are basically ideal for the understanding of social ideology understanding. Historians and film analysts have agreed that the US's film industry is wholly driven by genres and the popularity of those films lies in the ability of the producer to and directors to string series of episodes together and expose individual character's talents (Priestman, 2003). Crime is typically a deviation from social norms and motivates the plots. Character development works in tandem with plot development. For example, The Maltese Falcon has some characters that can best be described as loathsome villains who are practically social threats. Spade represents a heroic detective in this film, and is ready to fight anybody with ill motive and not ready to take any challenge kindly. The audiences association with the hero almost indirectly set themselves a social order. If the genre continuously grows popular for a long time, it clearly shows that it was ideologically received well by the audiences.
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The social problems and the crime films
The film The Maltese Falcon also presents an image of social problems the brew crime. Driven by the time of American society's social and economic change after the First World War and towards the Second World War, the film depicted the American society's change in various dimensions, predominantly driven by economic superiority. The film emphasized the social problems encountered immediately before the World War II. It maintained the society's increased belief in material wealth and classified social status as approved social goals within the American community setup. In the investigative role in the films, it becomes apparent that the society was developing into a place infested with criminal activities and having a gangster cycle was imminent due to the increased gap in social status and economic differences.
The crime films evolve and represented the response to a change in the economy as well as the emphasis on criminal activities and criminal heroes' ability to maneuver their intended goals of life (Kiszely, 2006).. Rather than dominant crime detection, the films were surrounded by crime that focuses on the moments of moral decision-making. The production of this film in foreign countries and cities, with mainly foreign themes suggests the desire of the producer to expose the rest of the world's view of America in times of great crises. Kiszely (2006) claims that The Maltese Falcon serves as a classical baseline example against which one can measure the producers' critique of US's xenophobia. It therefore suggest that America believed that everything foreign was associated with evil, perversity, and death. The aspect of sexuality is also brought out clearly where women are seen as weak vessels and they are used sexually and discarded. They have completely no laws protecting them from that. Immorality is extended where we see the aspect of gay in the action and here we see women being intimidated by other men. Immorality here is used and this increases crime cases in the area. For example, when there is an investigation of the three mysterious killing, a woman is involved in immorality and this just complicates the whole issue of investigation. Bribery is also featured where we see Gutman tries to bribe Spade but he refuses the bribe. This shows how most crime cases never come to justice because of the crime actions like bribe. It is obvious that when Spade accepts the bribe then there will be no justice and the whole truth might never be found. Spade whoever does not skip the trap of social problem as he goes out with his partner's wife and later discards her. This means that even the top officials that we expect their support are never perfect and they cannot and will never be above the law. As he is investigating on murder case he is equally involved in sex with a woman who is not really his wife and this is not different either from his case that he is investigating, they are all social problems in the society.
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The Maltese Falcon Recognition
Film studies have historically grown popular and became widespread discipline in the learning institutions. Layman (2003) describes The Maltese Falcon as one of the first and still one of the most impressive appraisals of the film from within the field. Luhr (1995) observe that serious academic field studies first become prominent in America in the 1970s. He also states that The Maltese Falcon is a film of diverse thoughts that should not be restricted to a particular genre- a product of Hollywood studio at its peak. In fact, he goes deeper to analyze the film's xenophobia, presentation of sexual deviation, its construction of masculinity and femininity, how various characters are assumedly assigned different roles and contrive different narrative for themselves and the diverse ways of historical representation. The film has no much detail on the romance aspects and this earns both Hoston and his father a big academic award as most scholars engage the film in their studies. As the father earns the award of being the best actor in the film, Hoston equally earns the award of being the best Director in the movie. Huston did not only acquire more information during the film presentation but ended up forming his own production company (Luhr 1995). This was after the long term passion for the job and numerous successes in the same field. Hollywood studio is one of his success stories during his long journey to accomplish the will of his dream. After a couple of months, he was able to be independent financially and this was proved when he was in a position to finance his films during the shooting process. Development has been brought up in archetype and here, we see Spade, retaining his inconsistency from Hammett's novel. He proves to be heroic throughout the film as he completely rejects all the bribes that were being offered by Spade. On contrary, he is also seen as an immoral character when he uses his partner's wife and later discards her. There is also an aspect of gay in the text when Joel Cairo describes Effie as smelling like gardenias, he strongly shows how he is completely not interested with her and has no feelings to women.
In the film, Irish-born Dudley widely brings out the personality of Gutman who is a murder, bribery yet he is not above the law. As much as Gutman had these personalities, he was a little bit obsequious during his performance and could not really bring out clearly the personality of a rich man who can conduct a twenty year search. Digges clearly reminded of corrupt officials in British major posts. Digges too could not infuse menace during his action and this made him to look like someone who really lacked this talent of acting. He keeps on delivering a very hammy presentation and performance every other time that he tried menacing. On contrary, Otto Matieson brings out his performance more clearly and this makes it to look more believable. As much as Effie tries to portray Matieson as an effeminate, he brings himself out clearly as being practical and economical and could portray this when he showed how best he could handle money and how he could manage the money that he had. Even if Matieson had some aspects of effeminate as said by Effie, then it was too minimal to be noted and that did not make him to have that as his personality. It is a fact that the old version of John Huston in the year 1941 has actually outshined this new version yet the old version was not perfect anyway. In all the versions, there is the aspect of sexuality that has been brought out in the two versions but it was brought out more in the older version than in the new version. It is in this Maltese falcon movie that a solid job was done and baby faced killer aspect is clearly portrayed in the film. Huston film portrays a detective agency. Huston has gone into detail, much details on trying to show us extra scenes like showing how Archer is being shot, how Effie is pontificated and asked to name his partners wife. The film finally ends in a sad mood when the secretary at the Spade's office concludes the case and just at that point, the ex wife is seen arriving. The movie seemed too slow in bringing out the suspects who killed the three and this is seen when Joel is being introduced in the film, it was already half way gone though since there, it started to pick up on the follow ups of the killers. Huston Falcon has brought out a definitive version. It was just hitting the right key at the right time and had the most effective cast. In a nutshell, Maltese Falcon has proved to be a landmark film in most levels of education and their best selection of pictures simply endures forever and makes the whole film a good story.
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