Trivia Answer: In “The Maltese Falcon,” How Much Money Does Sam Spade Actually Make?
Well, this is the answer to my movie trivia question I posted a while back. I thought I knew the answer after watching the film but I’m glad I went back for another look. Here’s what I found:
On first watching the movie, my count was $800. Here’s the breakdown:
1) On hiring the detectives, Ruth Wonderly gives them $200 (in two $100 bills). This is split between Spade and his partner, Archer (who is found dead later, with one of the $100 bills in his possession).
2) Later, after Archer’s death… Spade confronts Wonderly in her hotel and learns her real name to be Brigid O’Shaughnessy. On leaving, he demands all the money she has ($500). O’Shaughnessy hands him $400, claiming she needs something to live on. After learning she has things to sell (like her furs), Spade takes the full $500.
3) In his office, Joel Cairo offers Spade $5,000 to locate the Maltese Falcon. As a gesture and a downpayment, he gives Spade $200.
4) I know what you’re thinking. Wait – what about the $1,000 he got from Gutman at the end of the movie? While it’s true that Spade kept a $1,000 bill “for his time and trouble,” he promptly turned this over to the police, when he gave them O’Shaughnessy. So while he did receive money, he didn’t end up keeping it.
I took the liberty of going back and making a quick recap of the moments from the movie:
But wait! It turns out Spade didn’t take the full $500 from O’Shaughnessy at the hotel! He peels off two bills, and gives them back to her.
It’s hard for me to tell what the actual denomination is, and I didn’t have much luck when I was looking over old currency. Since it’s two bills, it’s possible that Spade gave back $2, $4 (unlikely), $10, $20 or $100. My guess is that they were $20 bills, so my vote goes with Spade giving back $40.
Which makes his take $760.
Sorry for the half answer. I really was convinced it was a straight $800 that he earned, but the hotel scene kind of messed up that nice, round number. If anyone recognizes the denomination of the bills (or can provide a link) – I’d love to see it!