The Maltese Falcon is a 1931 Film Noir about a few corrupt men that are in search of an expensive statue. The film begins when Ruth Wonderly comes into the office of Spade and Archer, two detectives, requesting that they track down a man known as Thursby. After Archer begins following this man, both he and Thursby are killed. Spade is suspected by the local police. Over the course of the story, Spade is introduced to several characters, such as Cairo and Gutman, who are all connected to Wonderly and the murder of his partner. It eventually becomes clear that Wonderly’s intentions to track down Thursby were motivated by the search for the falcon. Spade figures out that she killed his partner, and that Gutman’s hitman killed Archer. Spade eventually turns over Wonderly to the police and honors his obligation to bring his partner’s killer to justice.
In The Maltese Falcon, masculinity is defined by rugged toughness, crookedness, misogyny, and mistrust of others, but also by the retaining of a code of honor. Sam Spade is portrayed as a “hard-boiled” detective, a theme common to Film Noir. He has an affair with his partner’s wife, whom he treats rather poorly, which attests to his crookedness, misogyny, and his insensitivity, making a statement about what it meant to be a “tough guy” in that day and age. Spade also never carries a gun. He says he “doesn’t like them”, but this element may be an example of his toughness, as we see when he knocks out Cairo with one punch. Although Spade seems crooked, he retains his code of honor by remaining committed to finding his partner’s killer, as he recognizes that it is his duty to do so.