The Sam Spade Business Model

Silver Screenings

Humphrey Bogart (standing) makes a deal with Sidney Greenstreet. Image: Humphrey Bogart makes a deal with Sidney Greenstreet (seated). Image: Cinema of the World

Fictional private eye Sam Spade doesn’t believe in sugar coating. In The Maltese Falcon, he tells a client, “We didn’t believe your story. We believed your $200.”

This, to us, reveals Spade’s genetic makeup – shrewd, blunt, knows the value of a dollar. He doesn’t care about feelings; he cares about truth.

Sam Spade, one of the best-known detectives in American literature, is a product of the novelist Dashiell Hammett, who himself was a private investigator in the late 1910s and early 1920s.

Hammett wrote gobs of crime fiction, including The Thin Man (1934), The Glass Key (1931), and The Maltese Falcon, which was first published as a serial in Black Mask Magazine in 1929.

He’s a terrific writer. As Raymond Chandler said, “He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can…

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