'Maltese Falcon' Subject of Exhibit
We all like a good mystery with a tough detective, an intriguing plotline and a femme fatale. The standard for this type of detective fiction was established in 1929, when Dashiell Hammett wrote his masterpiece, "The Maltese Falcon."
The author and this important book in our popular culture are highlighted in the exhibit, "The Maltese Falcon: A Big Read Exhibit," opening Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex in Fayetteville.
The exhibit is presented in conjunction with the Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that encourages reading by promoting the community-wide reading of a particular book. For the third consecutive year, Fayetteville has been selected as a "Big Read" city, and "The Maltese Falcon" is the year's featured book. The Museum of the Cape Fear is a participating organization in the Big Read.
The exhibit will showcase Hammett memorabilia and artifacts related to "The Maltese Falcon," so fans of the book or movie will have plenty to see and ponder. On display is a 1920s Pinkerton badge, which is significant because Hammett worked as a Pinkerton detective in the 1910s. The author's experiences as a San Francisco gumshoe gave him a wealth of material for a different type of detective story.
For example, Hammett's hero, Sam Spade, is a rough-talking, down-to-earth private investigator who often works outside the law. This character was quite a change from the intellectual detectives familiar to readers at that time.
Hammett began writing detective stories in the early 1920s for pulp fiction magazines. Printed on cheap pulp paper, these magazines featured escapist fiction for general audiences. On view are a number of these publications, including Black Mask and True Detective Stories. Visitors will also see period images of places where events in "The Maltese Falcon" occurred, and the exhibit includes first-edition copies of the book from the United States, Great Britain, France and Italy.
The exhibit explores how "The Maltese Falcon" influenced popular culture. Among the items on display are movie cards from the 1931, 1936 and 1941 movie versions of the novel; a replica of the falcon statue from the 1941 movie; and records with excerpts from the movie and the radio serial, "The Adventures of Sam Spade," which ran from 1946 to 1950.
The museum will offer a variety of programs during the exhibit's run.
On Feb. 21, opening day, beginning 2 p.m., visitors can enjoy hearing saxophonist Reggie Codrington play popular music of the 1920s and 1930s. Members of the Cape Fear Players will enact scenes from the book, and refreshments will be served.
On March 14 at 2 p.m., Chris Gentry, a member of the N.C. Falconers Guild, will present a program on falconry. The program will include a film, a brief talk about raptors, and flight demonstrations in Arsenal Park with live birds of prey.
On March 28 at 2 p.m., Kathryn Beach, the museum's research historian, will present a program highlighting 1930s pop culture.
On the remaining Saturdays throughout the exhibit's run (March 28-April 5), the museum will offer a film series at 2 p.m. The series will include a 1941 movie version of the book, starring Humphrey Bogart; a 1978 Neil Simon spoof of the 1940s detective genre; a comedy that follows the adventures of Sam Spade's son; and Roman Polanski's 1974 tribute to film noir. The exhibit and all programs are free. Call (910) 486-1330 for more information about specific programs.
The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex is located on the corner of Bradford and Arsenal avenues in Fayetteville. The historical complex is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Visit www.museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov for further information.
More like this story