WASHINGTON: As an adult of a certain age, I want American Millennial Males of high school age to put down their emotional-support animal, ignore their inner child, postpone getting in touch with their “feminine side” and step out of, at least for one hour and 41 minutes, their “safe space.” It is time for Millennial Males to Play it again, Sam and return to masculinity.
They should start by watching the 1941 film “The Maltese Falcon,” a tale of foul crimes committed in quest of a bejeweled fowl statuette staring Humphrey Bogart as a symbol of subdued masculinity.
Trigger warning! Snowflakes need to take a lesson from Humphrey Bogart
“The Maltese Falcon” and its hero Sam Spade (Humphrey “Bogie” Bogart) provides a crash course on long-forgotten American manliness. Something sorely lacking in today’s overly feminized society.
As Stefan Kanfer writes in his book “Tough Without a Gun – The LIfe and Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart”:
“Modern leading men are well trained, skilled in their craft, buff, manipulated by powerhouse publicists. What they don’t have is singularity. Impersonators don’t ‘do’ Tobey Maguire or Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio or Christian Bale et al. because these actors don’t have imitable voices or faces. This is in sharp contrast to the leading men of the past. Men like Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart…”
Among the American Film Institutes 500 “Greatest Screen Legends,” Humphrey Bogart is listed #1.
The feminine mistake
But men have been told for years that Sam Spade-like manliness is somehow antiquated or wrong:
“Tell them [men] the masculine realm is killing them,” founding feminist Gloria Steinem told Harper’s Bazaar in a May 2017 interview. “Men would live quite a few years longer without the masculine realm. And not only that, but they’re deprived of their kids – they don’t get to see their children, or they aren’t raised to raise children, which is how they get deprived of their humanity.”
Apparently, a substantial segment of Americans believes this bilge.
According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey,
“About half of Americans say most people in our society these days look up to men who are manly or masculine, while 7% say society looks down on these men; 39% say society neither looks up to nor down on men who are manly or masculine.”
That means nearly half the nation is gender neutral or openly hostile on the question of masculinity.
Something very wrong is happening when the noir star and cultural icon is ignored by generations. Humphrey Bogart and Sam Spade set the bar for what it means to be honest, protective, and live by a code of American masculinity.
Detecting American Masculinity or manliness in (Sam) Spades
Getting back to Bogie, in 1941 the Hollywood Reporter told its readers his portrayal of private detective Sam Spade
“…dominates the proceedings throughout, but is the major motivation in all but a few minor scenes… Keeping just within the bounds of the law, and utilizing sparkling ingenuity in gathering up the loose ends and finally piecing them together, Bogart is able to solve the series of crimes for the benefit of the police.”
In “The Maltese Falcon,” Sam Spade doesn’t need a gun to assert his manhood. When Spade’s partner Miles Archer is shot dead, the police suspect Spade.
After all, the private detective has been carrying on an affair with Archer’s wife.
Humphrey Bogart offers a celluloid defense of Second Amendment rights
Police Lieutenant Dundy (Barton MacLane) asks, “What kind of gun do you carry?”
“None,” says Spade, “I don’t like them much. Of course, there are some in the office.”
That is not to say Spade is anti-Second Amendment. In fact, when Dundy later attempts to confiscate a handgun from Spade’s apartment, he tells the lieutenant’s partner Tom Polhaus (Ward Bond), “Tell him to leave the gun.”
Spade knows his constitutional rights, and Dundy begrudgingly pulls the pistol from his coat pocket and places it on the dining room table before leaving.
This is not the only time Sam Spade asserts, as Thomas Jefferson might say, “the Rights of Man.”
When he is called in for questioning by San Francisco District Attorney Bryan, it’s Spade who does most the talking.
In the novel, Sam Spade’s a bit more assertive and salty in his language while fending off legal authorities convinced he murdered his partner:
“I don’t want any more of these informal talks. I’ve got nothing to tell you or the police and I’m goddamned tired of being called things by every crackpot on the city payroll. If you want to see me, pinch me or subpoena me or something and I’ll come down with my lawyer.”
He put his hat on his head, said, “’See you at the inquest, maybe,’ and stalked out.”
The politically incorrect Dashiell Hammett
One of the novel/film’s central themes is the juxtaposition of true manliness to that of its comical caricature.
Hammett’s criminals Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet):
“He wore a black cutaway coat, black vest… ascot tie holding a pinkish pearl, striped grey worsted trousers, and patent-leather shoes.”
and Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) in his
“Derby hat in a chamois-gloved hand… the fragrance of chypre came with him.”
are portrayed as being:
… overly fastidious and effeminate in dress and manner.
Men whose over-eagerness to pull their guns and engage in violence are symptomatic acts of overcompensation.
And this is certainly the case for Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook, Jr.), the young man to which Gutman says he “couldn’t be fonder of… if you were my own son.”
Wilmer is the gargantuan Gutman’s muscle, packing (there’s that overcompensating again) a .45 caliber automatic pistol in each of his two coat pockets.
On one occasion, the unarmed Spade easily strips Wilmer of his weapons, telling him,
“This ought to put you in solid with your boss.”
When he eventually meets Gutman, Spade can’t help but humiliate Wilmer yet again, handing the fat man the pair of pistols, saying,
“A crippled newsie took them from him but I made him give them back.”
“Keep on riding me,” says Cook timorously, tearing up, “and they’re gonna be picking iron out of your liver.”
Spade’s unconvinced, “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”
Before leaving Gutman’s hotel room, Spade tells him,
“And another thing, keep that gunsel away from me… I’ll kill him.”
The term “gunsel” has a double meaning. It can describe a criminal that carries a gun or, in a derivation dating from around 1914, it’s hobo slang for “a young male kept as a sexual companion, especially by an older tramp.” (ETYMONLINE.COM).
Humphrey Bogart and American Masculinity: No fool for feminine wiles
And Spade is not easily swayed by weepy emotionalism, even if it costs him the affections of a beautiful woman.
“You’re good,” he tells the seemingly vulnerable Brigid O’Shaughnessy, “It’s chiefly your eyes, I think, and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like ‘be generous, Mr. Spade.’”
Sam Spade spoiler alert
When Spade eventually discovers the woman he loves, O’Shaughnessy, is responsible for murdering his partner Miles Archer, not even love can sway him from his manly duty.
“Listen,” he tells her, “When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we’re in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, its’ bad for business to let the killer get away with it – bad all around – bad for every detective everywhere… Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be… I won’t play the sap for you.”
For decades, American masculinity and males have been playing “the sap” for feminists eager to redefine what it is to be a man. And like the elusive Maltese Falcon, this new and improved male is not what he’s cracked up to be.
“It’s fake!” the horrified Gutman shouts upon receiving the fabled falcon of his fevered imagination. He finds no precious stones hidden beneath its black enamel. His search of nearly twenty years is a complete waste.
You young American Millennial males, there is a lesson in that.
Top image: Detective Tom Polhaus (Ward Bond) and Private Eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart)
examine the Maltese Falcon.