The Maltese Falcon Analysis

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According to Philippa Gates, “the rise of film noir coincided with a new need to Americanize the onscreen hero in a response to the changing international climate with America's entry into World War II” (Gates 16). Suddenly, the eloquence and wealth of the soft-boiled hero were taken from him and realigned with the villain. Much like the monster movies that were to be produced during the Cold War, The Maltese Falcon defined the threat to American society as something “other,” specifically European. That is not to say that elegance and charm were considered villainous in the 1940s, but that protagonists could no longer embody such traits that were associated with “otherness.” Because of the wartime atmosphere surrounding The Maltese Falcon’s production, the villains of the movie—chiefly Gutman, Wilmer, and Cairo—are designed to highlight Spade’s more heroic qualities. The first way this contrast is achieved is by portraying the three villains as homosexual and “perverted” to emphasize Spade’s masculinity as a heterosexual hero (Gates 16). In Hammet’s original novel, there is strong homosexual subtext between Cairo and Wilmer implying they are lovers, so this isn’t a huge deviation from the source material, but the message it conveys is (Gates 17). By Hollywood convention, it is clear that Cairo is homosexual. He is always impeccably dressed, carries business cards that smell of gardenia and speaks with a foreign accent, against emphasizing that “otherness” The Maltese Falcon

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