What color is the Maltese falcon?

This was the question at the place I get my latte when I go shopping. I like the people who work there. All young, some very, and almost all girls--teenage girls.

Of course the answer is black. The one who put up the question, probably from Trivial Pursuit, or some such game, thought it would be a hard one. By the time I got there at about 2 pm, all 10 free coffees had been won.

Of the two other girls there, the one I like, and the cynical one, only the one I liked had even heard of Humphrey Bogart or Lauren Bacall. But none had heard of this movie, or any other Bogart movie. (Yes, Bacall is not in this Bogie movie, but the icon is Bogart and Bacall.) I didn’t even ask about Sydney Greenstreet, or Peter Lorre.

These movies, of course, are of my parents’ generation. But I think they stand, and will stand, the test of time. But the catch-22 is, will we be allowed to see them if they don’t make as much money as the latest blockbuster?

I suppose I am gratified so many people knew what the color was--though how many know that the artifact that passed for the Maltese falcon was actually not what it was supposed to be? How many of you who’re reading this now?

This is the “twilight of common dreams”--to use the phrase of Todd Gitlin again. I have attempted this issue before, here, and here. This may not be my last try.

As a teacher of children, I am very concerned with the transmission of culture, tradition, the good things from the past to them.

Even as a Canadian nationalist, who realizes that Bogart and Bacall are American icons, I still like them. Nationality is no bar to touching the human soul. Or shouldn’t be!

But I see the things that have meant so much to me gradually slip from the minds of the children I see every day. I am, of course, not the first one to have noticed this; I won’t be the last. Yes, many are from other cultures. I try to be open to these as well. But so many seem to have adopted the American universal culture and lost their own--and have no glimmer of what Canadian culture might be.

I think this is not a trivial question; it’s the things we share that make us one. What do we share? What the media serve us, like some fast food smorgasbord, is so evanescent, so ephemeral.

This is why I am appalled by the serious proposals to turn all this over to the private sector. There is no control over that! There is no perfect marketplace now, if ever there was one. No marketplace is a substitute for true democracy.

I know the public sector is not perfect, and in many ways, it’s just as distorted as the private sector, by the same entities, processes, and of course, by money. But there is some hope of controlling the public sector; there is none of controlling the private.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too dispirited, of the three girls at the coffee bar, one had some idea of the past, and one seemed eager to find out. The cynical one was just, well, cynical.

I suppose these proportions are to be expected. But who will we entrust this task to? And how will they do it?

The Maltese Falcon isn't gold or silver or ruby-red or black or white. The Maltese Falcon is every shade of grey.

Not the statue, or the impostor made of lead, but the events and crimes and lies and hopes surrounding it. Sam Spade isn't, in spite of evidence to the contrary, the protagonist. Archer isn't the white knight martyred in search of the Holy Grail. Brigid isn't the lady in red, nor the virginal innocent in search of protection as she originally claims. Gutman may covet that which is not his, but to see his life's goal thwarted is not without sadness and irony. The creators of the Maltese Falcon, the Knights Templar of Malta (The group never existed and seems to be a symbolic mixture of the Knights Templar and the Knights of Malta, sworn enemies), weren't golden in their intentions. Joe Cairo isn't the yellow-bellied treasure hunter. Quite possibly the only person in the entire scenario without duplicity was the Kid, so full of rage he never finds a deeper meaning, but he is so transparent he has no colour at all.

Detective Tom Polhaus: Heavy. What is it?
Sam Spade: The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.
Detective Tom Polhaus: Huh?

The Maltese Falcon is every shade of greed, of betrayal, of hope, of human nature.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.