The Maltese Falcon (1941 Film)

The Maltese Falcon (1941 Film) Summary and Analysis of Part 5: Conclusion


Sam asks Gutman why Wilmer shot Thursby, and then, why and where he shot Captain Jacobi, insisting that he must know in order to cover up the different parts of the story. As the camera shows Brigid’s concerned expression, Gutman tells Sam that Thursby was Brigid’s ally and that killing him would convince Brigid to join them again and make amends for past conflicts. When Sam asks if Gutman tried to strike a bargain with Thursby, Gutman insists that they did, but he wouldn’t take it, feeling loyal to Brigid. As for Jacobi, Gutman tells Sam that his death was Brigid’s fault; Cairo had seen news of the arrival of the La Paloma, and remembered that in Hong Kong he had heard that Brigid and Jacobi were seen together. Just as Gutman gets to this part of the story, Wilmer begins to moan in his half-conscious state. Continuing, Gutman tells Sam that Cairo had correctly guessed that Brigid had given the statuette to Jacobi, and fearing that he would run away with it, they went to find Jacobi, who just so happened to be in Brigid’s company at the time. After some conflict they managed to encourage Brigid to come with them, where they would pay her and take the statuette, but on the way, Brigid and Jacobi managed to escape, with the statuette in tow. When Sam asks how the fire started, Gutman tells him that Wilmer, while searching for the Maltese Falcon on the boat, accidentally set the ship on fire.

Gutman continues, on Sam’s prompting: The men then caught up with Brigid at her apartment, and positioned Wilmer outside to stand guard. When Jacobi tried to escape via the fire escape, Wilmer shot him numerous times, but Jacobi managed to climb down, knocking Wilmer over and running off to Sam’s office. Giggling, Gutman walks over to Brigid and tells Sam that they persuaded her to tell them where she had sent Jacobi with the statuette, and to call Sam’s office in order to lure him away from the office before Jacobi arrived. This plan didn’t work, however, and Sam procured the statuette before they could lure him away. At this point Wilmer regains consciousness, groaning, and sits up to find all four of his companions looking at him knowingly. Gutman says, “Wilmer, I’m sorry indeed to lose you, but I want you to know I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son.” The Maltese Falcon is more important to him than Wilmer. Sam tells Brigid to make a pot of coffee, but Gutman tells her to leave the envelope with the payment in the room before leaving.

Gutman counts the cash, counting only 9 bills when there had been 10 before. Sam gets up to confront Brigid, but she simply shakes her head signifying that she didn’t take it. Believing her, Sam now confronts Gutman, accusing him of taking the cash himself, and threatening to search him for it if he doesn’t confess. Gutman does confess, calling his antics a little joke, and putting the bill back in the envelope, and handing the envelope over to Sam. Sam now insists that he deserves more than 10,000, and asks for 15,000, but Gutman tells him that this is all the money he can raise. Now Gutman conspiratorially tells Sam that he ought to be careful with Brigid, and when Sam asks if she is dangerous, Gutman tells him that, yes, she is very dangerous. Sam calls after her to ask how the coffee is coming, and Gutman asks Sam if he can get the statuette soon. Agreeing, Sam makes a call to Effie, and gives her instructions to fetch the package with the statuette from the safe deposit.

The scene shifts to the motley companions all in various states of repose, draped on couches and chairs, Gutman reading in an armchair, Sam reading the paper in another chair, Cairo, Wilmer and Brigid asleep. Sam gets up and checks the window and the door, then sits back down and holds Brigid’s hand. The door buzzes, and Sam gets up to answer it, where he finds Effie carrying the package. He apologizes for spoiling her day, then brings the package into the apartment as the crooks gather around and he puts it on the table. Gutman furiously unwraps it, and finds the falcon, looking portentously at Cairo and Brigid. Placing the statuette upright on the table, the music plays dramatically, regal trumpets blasting to signal its arrival. Gutman must now make sure that it is the real thing, and he hacks away at the enamel with a knife, finally determining that it’s a fake. Frustrated, Sam asks Brigid to explain the counterfeit falcon, but she insists that it’s the statuette she received from the Russian. Cairo is now livid, accusing Gutman of ruining their plan by attempting to buy the statuette from the Russian. The Russian surely realized how valuable it was when Gutman made an offer, and sent a counterfeit one in its place. Growing violently agitated, Cairo yells insults at Gutman before collapsing onto a chair in tears.

Having come to the disappointing realization that his beloved statue is a fake, Gutman clutches the back of his head with a blank expression on his face, before lifting the bird into an upright position and laughing at the sight of it. Gutman insists that they ought to stop crying about it and go to Istanbul, and Cairo quickly cheers up, realizing that Gutman is inviting him along. Suddenly Gutman is overcome, and he rushes into the kitchen, then the bathroom, searching for Wilmer. Sam chuckles and nods to the open door, out of which Wilmer escaped. When Gutman asks for his money back, Sam refuses, insisting that it is Gutman’s bad luck that the statuette was a fake, not his. Holding up a revolver, but smiling all the while, Gutman again requests the money back. Sam gives him the bulk of it, but keeps $1000 to account for his time and expenses. Shrugging, Gutman agrees and says his goodbyes, complimenting Sam on his savvy attitude and inviting him along to Istanbul, but Sam does not take him up on the invitation. Gutman then says his goodbyes to Brigid and he and Cairo leave.

As Brigid looks at Sam anxiously, he goes to the phone and calls the police. Sam explains to the police that Jacobi and Thursby were both killed by Wilmer, that he worked with Gutman and Cairo, and that they have all recently left his apartment. Sam warns them that Wilmer is armed, before hanging up quickly. Worried that the men will tell the police everything when they’re arrested, jeopardizing his and Brigid’s innocence, Sam confronts Brigid and asks for the full story. He accuses her of lying about wanting Thursby shadowed, and that she actually just wanted to get Thursby killed so that she wouldn’t have to split her reward money with him. Slackening a bit, Brigid tells Sam that she thought that if Thursby thought he was being followed, he might leave of his own accord, but Sam calls her bluff; he knows Miles wasn’t clumsy enough to be noticed on the first night. Rather, Sam suggests, Brigid told Thursby he was being followed. Brigid tells Sam that she did indeed tell Thursby that Miles was following him, but that she didn’t want him to shoot Miles.

Sam calls Brigid’s bluff yet again, suggesting that Miles had too much experience as an investigator to get caught by a man he was shadowing, and that it must have been Brigid who killed him. Citing Miles’ dumbfounded attraction to Brigid, Sam furiously accuses Brigid of being the only person who could possibly have killed Miles. Brigid begs him to stop accusing her, but he tells her to drop “that schoolgirl act…we’re both of us sitting under the gallows.” He then asks her why she shot Miles, and she tells him she didn’t mean to before erupting into plaintive tears. Sam finishes the sentence she is unable to, suggesting that the reason Brigid killed Miles was because when she realized that Thursby was never going to, she thought that by killing Miles herself with his gun, she could frame Thursby for murder. Sam continues: when she heard that Thursby was shot, she must have known that Gutman had arrived, and she needed a protector, which drew her back to Sam.

Tearfully, Brigid embraces him and insists that she has been in love with him from the start and would have come to him even if she hadn’t needed his protection. Sam has no sympathy, suggesting that she come and find him in another 20 years after she gets out of prison, caressing her neck and telling her that he hopes they don’t hang her. Shocked, Brigid realizes that Sam plans to turn her in to the police, and he tells her that if she’s lucky she’ll get a life sentence, which will just be 20 years if she’s a “good girl.” He tells her he’ll be waiting for her when she gets out, or that if she is hanged, he will remember her fondly. Brigid laughs, suddenly believing that Sam is making a joke, saying once again, “You do such wild and unpredictable things!” Sam doesn’t bite, however, telling Brigid, “Don’t be silly, you’re taking the fall.” Brigid is upset and accuses Sam of pretending to care just to entrap her. Sam stands apart from her, woefully telling her, “I won’t play the sap for you.” When she tells him that she thought they loved each other, even through all the deceit, he becomes angry and yells, “I don’t care who loves who. I won’t play the sap. I won’t walk in Thursby’s and I don’t know how many other’s footsteps.” Brigid is despondent and Sam explains that a man must remain loyal to his partner, whether he likes him or not. It’s “bad business,” in his words, for a detective to let his partner’s killer go unpunished.

When Brigid protests that Sam’s loyalty to Miles doesn’t seem like sufficient reason to turn her in, he goes on to explain that if he lets her go, she could always use that fact against him. Furthermore, he cannot trust her—who’s to say she won’t one day shoot him? While he grants that not all of these reasons for turning her in are important, the sheer number of reasons is enough to convince him that he ought to. He then becomes firmer with her, telling her that he simply cannot trust her, and when she asks if he would do the same even if the statuette had been real and he had earned a hefty salary, he fires back, “Don’t be so sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be. That sort of reputation might be good business.” As Brigid cries and bemoans the fact that Sam never really loved her, he kisses her abruptly, and the buzzer rings. Sam yells for them to come in and it’s Tom and Dundy. They reveal that they caught Gutman and company, and Sam hands over Brigid, telling them that she killed Miles, and also handing over Gutman and co.’s guns, the $1000 bill that Gutman gave him, and the false statuette, all to be used as evidence. Tom leads Brigid out, as Dundy picks up the falcon statuette and asks what it is. Sam replies enigmatically, “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Sam carries the statue into the hall and watches as the elevator gate closes on a mournful Brigid. Sam takes the stairs.


In this section of the film, much is revealed about the details of the plot, which shows the depths of Gutman’s devotion to the Maltese Falcon. Gutman, in a rambling monologue, reveals that they killed Thursby in order to lure Brigid back to their cohort, and that they killed Jacobi because he was helping Brigid deliver the statuette. In the revelation of these various complicated moving parts, the audience sees that Gutman will stop at nothing to get the statuette and become a wealthy man. Thus we see the particular reasons for his villainous acts; he is not an inherently sadistic or violent person, necessarily, but his passion for procuring the valuable statue has desensitized him to violence. His primary vice is avarice, an obsessive desire to acquire wealth. In this way, he is a foil to Sam; Sam too is a man motivated by his passion for money and a good deal—he was first motivated to help Brigid because she could pay him well. What distinguishes Sam from Gutman, however, is that while Gutman seeks the truth only to procure material wealth, and will employ criminal means for his purposes, Sam’s interest in money is incidental—his primary motivation is to discover the truth for the sake of justice. Sam is not exactly a traditionally ethical subject—he is a maverick, often going outside the bounds of the law to solve crimes—but he is ultimately defined by his staunch belief in fair dealings.

Sam’s commitment to justice is most apparent when he reveals to Brigid his intentions to turn her in to the police and the revelation that he never wanted Gutman’s money in the first place. Sam’s attitude towards Brigid throughout the film is inconsistent and difficult to comprehend. One minute he is mocking her and explicitly expressing his distrust, and the next he is holding her hand, comforting her, or kissing her passionately. While the viewer knows that Sam is undoubtedly attracted to Brigid and pulled by his desire to take care of her, he never definitively expresses his allegiance to her. Indeed, when Gutman asks Sam to whom he is allied—Brigid or Cairo—Sam cannot definitively say, feeling allied to neither. In spite of his feelings of sympathy for Brigid, he does not forget the ways that she has betrayed him, and is unwavering in his confession of the belief that she deserves to go to jail for her crimes. Sam is not soft-hearted or impressionable enough to overlook the crimes of a deceitful woman. Additionally, all of the ways that Sam appeared to be interested in getting involved in a business relationship around the Maltese Falcon are revealed to have been contrived in order to collect more evidence about the criminals. As Sam tells Brigid, “Don’t be so sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be. That sort of reputation might be good for business.” His reputation of “crookedness” and unpredictability gave him all the more access to his targets.

It is in Sam’s decision to turn Brigid in that we see not only his steadfast commitment to the enforcement of justice, but more specifically, his steadfast commitment to himself. In many ways, Sam loves Brigid, or at least feels affection for her, yet in the moment when he reveals his plans to turn her in, Sam exhibits a sudden callousness. He tells Brigid that if she gets a life sentence, she can get out of jail in 20 years, at which point he will be waiting for her, and if she is hanged, he will remember her fondly; his desire to be with her is exceeded by his desire to see her punished for her crimes. Whether she is executed or not makes no difference to him, so long as justice is served. In this moment, his feelings takes a backseat to his own particular sense of ethical proportion, and through these cold and hard-headed statements, Sam reveals once again that he is his only ally, that he cannot trust anyone else, least of all a woman who has lied to him.

Sam’s objectivity is what prevents him from having personal relationships, and it is also what makes him good at his job. He decides to turn in the woman he loves because she killed Miles and lied about it, but this decision is less about his personal affiliation with Miles—he seems not to have liked his partner very much—and more about his desire to see justice served, his commitment to what he is “supposed to do,” and his mistrust of other people. Having made it seem as though he wanted to help Brigid, that he was on her side, Sam now reveals that romantic affiliations are less important to him than retribution. Thus, while Brigid is undoubtedly deceitful under the law, Sam is also deceitful by Brigid’s standards in that he does not honor his romantic loyalty to Brigid, choosing his partner over her. The qualities that make Sam a proficient detective—that he is “wild and unpredictable,” that he is dogged in his pursuit of fairness—are also what make him a disloyal and dishonest lover. Sam Spade wants to work for the greater good, but that means he can only rely on himself, which comes at the expense of his personal relationships.

The conflict between doing what is right and following his own desires and emotions is connected to Sam’s conception of his own masculinity, competence, and allegiance to a patriarchal code. When Brigid appeals to his emotions, scolding him for betraying her after they have fallen in love, Sam looks conflicted, as he stares at her and simply says, “I won’t play the sap for you.” The viewer can see that Sam does have love for Brigid, but he is actively repressing it in order to stay true to his principles, to avoid playing “the sap,” and to avoid doing “bad business.” To Sam’s mind, playing “the sap”—revealing his emotions, and bending to the will of a woman who loves him—would be to emasculate himself and endanger his life. Brigid operates by the logic that no matter how much they had to lie, the couple maintained an undeniable love for one another, but Sam dismisses this angrily, yelling, “I don’t care who loves who.” He suggests that if he stooped to loving her, he would meet a fate no better than Thursby. In Sam’s business, falling for a deceitful woman leads to certain death. Then later, when Brigid questions his loyalty to Miles Archer, asking why he would turn her in if he didn’t even seem to like Miles, Sam refers to a unbreakable and unspoken code between two detectives in a working relationship. Sam’s abstract loyalty to the man with whom he was in business reveals that his fundamental loyalty is to his business and to his gender, not to what he perceives to be the unreliable affections of a woman. To the end, he remains the epitome of a craggy, self-sufficient American man in the early 20th century, a detective rather than a lover, a man rather than a “sap.”