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The Maltese Falcon (1941) Poster

Goofs

Anachronisms 

(at around 25 mins) Joel Cairo's passport refers to Lepanto. This name is an Italian name and hasn't been used since the middle ages; the current name (and that in use since his dob, is Naupactus).
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Audio/visual unsynchronised 

(at around 47 mins) When Effie is on the phone with Iva, we hear her say, "No, not yet," but her mouth is closed.
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Boom mic visible 

(at around 57 mins) When Spade and Wilmer are walking down the hall toward Gutman's apartment, the shadow of the microphone boom passes across Wilmer's coat.
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Character error 

(at around 3 mins) When he first enters his office, Archer is smoking a cigarette with his left hand, and appears to be holding a match in his lowered right hand. He seems to have been caught holding the match he used to light the cigarette before entering the scene, and disposes of it by casually dropping it to the floor.
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When Archer first enters Sam's office in the opening scene, he opens the door and is smoking a cigarette. Archer quickly removes something from his mouth nonchalantly with his right hand, he immediately puts his hand down to his side and then discards it on the floor hoping it wasn't noticed, it is a toothpick. When he comes into the room, he has 2 distinct items in his mouth, one a cigarette, the other is the toothpick he tosses to the floor.
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When the ringing phone awakens Spade from a sound sleep at 2:00 AM, his hair is perfectly groomed.
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Continuity 

(at around 48 mins) Spade doesn't wear rings or a watch throughout the movie except for one scene. At one point he walks into his office wearing a wedding band on his left hand, another large ring on his right hand and an expensive-looking wristwatch. He sits down to have a quick chat with his secretary where the rings and watch are in plain view. He then walks through a doorway into his inner office and the rings and watch are gone.
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The crawl at the beginning of the movie refers to the falcon as being "encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels". Yet when we finally see it, apparently the falcon's surfaces are all smooth. Even with the black enamel coating to disguise it, we should be able to see the rough texture of the jewels below the enamel.
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(at around 54 mins) In their first meeting, Spade tells Gutman that he has until 5:00 to make up his mind. Later, when Wilmer lets Spade know that Gutman is ready to talk, Spade says "I didn't expect you until 5:25," which would have been twenty-five minutes after the deadline had passed (in the novel, the deadline is 5:30).
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(at around 51 mins) When Sam first goes to see Gutman in 12C, as he walks down the corridor we can see that directly in front of him is a chair, a table with flowers on and a silhouette of a diamond framed window and the flowers on the wall, but when he leaves we can see two chairs either side of the table and the diamond frame silhouette is not there.
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When Spade backslaps Cairo, and Peter Lorre's head snaps to the left, he's wearing a polka dot bow tie, but when his head snaps back to the right, his cravat has become striped.
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(at around 1h 27 mins) When Sam first puts the Falcon on the table Gutman is smoking a cigar. When he begins to scratch the Falcon there is no cigar in sight.
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(at around 35 mins) When Joel Cairo and Brigid O'Shaughnessy are in Spade's house, Cairo lights a match with his left hand. Between shots the match appears in his right hand.
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(at around 57 mins) When Spade pulls Wilmer's overcoat over him going towards Gutman's apartment we see him pull out two pistols. But Wilmer has his hands inside of his coat's outer pockets and you don't see Spade's hands going into the inside of the two upper inside pockets.
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(at around 2 mins) The opening scene where Miss Wanderly meets Archer. Spade is leaning forward in the main shot. Then he is back in his chair in the over the shoulder Wanderly shot.
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When searching for the body, Sam's handkerchief is ruffled only while he is in the room, not before or after.
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(at around 13 mins) When Dundy and Polhaus are in the Spade's house, Spade serves a drink to them. When he begins to serve, Dundy is standing and Polhaus sitting. Then Polhaus stands up in the right side of Spade. Next shot he is in front of Spade.
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(at around 1h 20 mins) In the final scene when all five are in the room, Spade takes the guns from Cairo and Wilmer, walks around Gutman. During Spade's conversation with Gutman, he sit on a chair and leans against the wall with something small in his right hand. Next scene, Spade is leaning towards Gutman and nothing is in his right hand.
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Crew or equipment visible 

(at around 1h 7 mins) Shadows are visible when Captain Jacoby stumbles into Spade's office and falls on the couch.
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(at around 1h 5 mins) When looking to newspaper for ship arrivals, it is seem that small piece of paper has been glued there.
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At about 1:07:30 in, Captain Jacobi (Walter Huston) has just expired on the leather couch in Sam's office. There is a lighting sheen on the leather back that is interrupted by someone or something blocking the lighting.
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Errors in geography 

(at around 1h 6 mins) "Los Angeles Fire Department" appears on the firefighters' hats. The film is set in San Francisco.
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(at around 2 mins) Early in the film, out the window of Sam's office, the Bay Bridge can be seen. In another angle, a domed building can be seen - either SF City Hall or the monument at Presidio, neither of which would be visible from Sam Spade's office.
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Factual errors 

The opening crawl begins, "In 1539, the Knight Templars[sic] of Malta, paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon..." This confuses two different religious orders of knights, both founded in Jerusalem. The Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, known as the Order of St. John for short, have existed since 1048; they were in fact based in Malta from 1530 to 1798 and hence were also called the Knights of Malta. On the other hand, the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, also called the Knights Templar or just Templars, were founded in 1119 and became the sworn enemies of the first order; this latter group was disbanded by 1312, after King Philip IV of France had declared them heretics so that he could confiscate their wealth.
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The opening crawl tells a story about "Charles V of Spain" in 1539. This king was Charles I of Spain; Charles V was his title as Holy Roman Emperor.
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(at around 8 mins) When Spade is discussing the murder of Archer with Tom Polhaus, Polhaus says the murder weapon is a "Webley." Spade then goes on to describe the weapon as a "Webley-Forsby (sic), .45 Automatic, 8-shot." The manufacturer was Webley-Fosbery, though Sam may have just mis-pronounced it, but the similarity to "Thursby" is striking. What is most definitely wrong is the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver was chambered in two calibers, .455 Webley MK II (not .45, a minor discrepancy) and .38 ACP. The .455 had only a six shot capacity and the .38 caliber was the 8-shot variant. The .455 Webley MK II was an unusual cartridge and would have been quite hard to find after 1915, the end of production for the pistol. The .38 ACP was more common and is still available today. In the Dashiell Hammett book, the weapon is correctly referred to as a .38 caliber, 8-shot.
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(at around 25 mins) Joel Cairo's British passport had his name written twice on the front cover; one would be a reference number, not a name.
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When Spade is discussing the murder of Archer with Tom Polhaus, Polhaus says the murder weapon is a "Webley." Spade then goes on to describe the weapon as a "Webley-Forsby (sic), .45 Automatic, 8-shot." The manufacturer was Webley-Fosbery, though Sam may have just mis-pronounced it, but the similarity to "Thursby" is striking. What is most definitely wrong is the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver was chambered in two calibers, .455 Webley MK II (not .45, a minor discrepancy) and .38 ACP. The .455 had only a six shot capacity and the .38 caliber was the 8-shot variant. The .455 Webley MK II was an unusual cartridge and would have been quite hard to find after 1915, the end of production for the pistol. The .38 ACP was more common and is still available today. In the Dashiell Hammett book, the weapon is correctly referred to as a .38 caliber, 8-shot.
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Miscellaneous 

If the statuette were genuine, Gutman would not be trying to scrape the enamel from the visible surface of the falcon, but from the bottom. Otherwise, the knife marks would damage the piece and would seriously degrade its value.
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At one point near the beginning the sun casts an image on the floor of a window bearing the Spade and Archer text . The angle of the light does not correspond to either of the windows and is also at an odd angle.
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Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

(at around 8 mins) Spade refers to the gun as an automatic, yet he is shown a revolver. The gun shown is a Webley-Fosbery automatic. This was a revolver that used the recoil of the shot to turn the cylinder and re-cock the weapon. It was very well made, but susceptible to dirt and fouling and so, as Spade said, "They don't make 'em anymore". However, it was made in two versions, a six-shot .455 and an eight-shot .38 ACP, so it can't actually be an eight-shot .45 as Spade says it is.
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Revealing mistakes 

(at around 8 mins) When Spade is talking to Det. Tom Polhaus about the Webley, the sound stage ceiling can be clearly seen above the tops of the buildings.
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(at around 26 mins) When Sam clobbers Cairo, he falls unconscious on the sofa. We can see Cairo blinking pretty obviously.
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The Maltese Falcon, if it was made of gold or lead, would have weighed between 35-45lbs.

The bundle that arrives at Sam Spade's clearly doesn't weigh anywhere that amount. In fact it's so light that the clerk in post office picks it up with his fingers. Spade also sets down upon his desk and it doesn't make any noise.
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Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Audio/visual unsynchronised 

(at around 1h 28 mins) When Gutman is slicing away energetically at the Maltese Falcon, his voice ("It's a fake... it's lead!) is clearly dubbed by another actor.
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Continuity 

(at around 1h 30 mins) Towards the end, after Brigid tells Sam she can't look at him, she covers her face with her hand. From another angle, her hand isn't there.
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(at around 1h 29 mins) After Gutman discovers the Maltese Falcon is a fake and shakes off the shock, he puts the statue upright. A close-up of the bird and Gutman's hands shows a knife in his right hand, though in the previous long shot his hand was empty.
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(at around 1h 28 mins) When Gutman is slicing away energetically at the Maltese Falcon, one shot shows him standing still with his arms not moving.
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(at around 1h 18 mins) When Wilmer is overpowered in the last scene in Spade's apartment, he's placed on the lounge with both arms at his side. After a momentary cutaway shot to Brigid's face, he's shown with both arms over his head.
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When Archer meets his demise in the beginning of the film, we see him get shot, slip past the fence post and tumble down the hillside. He goes quite a distance down the relatively smooth hill but things are very different when Sam later visits the scene of the crime. We see a shot from behind Sam as he looks down the hill. The hillside is now more like a cliff with a sharper drop off before the flatter resting place for Mr. Archer. (Note the detective looking back up at Sam.) The distance from the fence to Archer in this shot also seems a lot shorter than the length of the tumble he took earlier.
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Revealing mistakes 

(at around 1h 35 mins) At the very end, as O'Shaughnessy and Dundy are leaving in the elevator, the visual effect of the elevator going down is accomplished by lowering a dark screen in front of the backlit actors. Very nice, except that you can clearly see that both silhouetted actors remain standing motionless at floor level as the screen drops.
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See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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