Sinister Cinema: On the Block

I should note the news that one of the falcon statues from the 1941 Bogie movie sits atop the auction block again — with a cool million sales point not out of the question. You can look up earlier articles that herald the event, and soon enough word on the sum that changed hands.

There are worse hobbies.

One bit from the Daily News article may need comment: “There were reportedly four props on the set — three made of plaster and one made  from metal.” Now, I wasn’t around in 1941, much less in Hollywood keeping tabs on the Warner Brothers prop department, so that might be correct.

But the idea seems to be that the prop on the block is the only “metal” one. I personally have seen two individual props made of lead, with a bronze patina — the one belonging to arch-Bogart fan Dr. Gary Milan and the one that sold at auction in 1994 for $398,500 (I actually had the later one in my mitts, heavy as hell).

In the Vince Emery book Discovering the Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade (the first letter “A” on Vince’s Ace Performer shelf, which thus far has gotten all the way to “U” with my tour book) you’ll find info and photos of the two previously known lead birds, as well as on two resin models — plus mention of a “plastic” copy. Someone explained to me once that they didn’t quite have plastic as we know it at the time, so for “plastic” think “bakelite.” But, whatever — I’m no authority on plastic, either.

Over the years various plaster versions have been manufactured and sold, but as far as I know, none of those were around when the movie was being shot.

So, what do we have? — two resin and now three lead statues? When I first heard the news I wondered if this one might be the Milan statue making the rounds, but from the little you can glean from the articles, it seems to be a new entry in the sweepstakes.

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