William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Saturday, 11, July, 2009

So, Here’s a Thought Experiment…

Filed under: Boomstick — williamthecoroner @ 13:57

I’ve a friend who is very interested in entertainment law and collecting.  She’s particularly interested in Vincent D’Nofrio.  But that got me to thinking, that and the previous post, what would it take to collect the firearms used in the Maltese Falcon.  Not the actual movie props.  I don’t think those would be available, and I would need rock-solid evidence to prove the provenance.

So, what was used?  In order of appearance:

  1. Brigid’s Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver in .455,
  2. Miles Archer’s revolver (I’ll call it a S&W Model 10, .38 Special),
  3. Joel Cairo’s Baby Browning in .25.
  4. Wilmer’s two Colt .45 1911A1s, and
  5. Kasper Gutman’s M1903 Colt Hammerless.

The movie was filmed in 1941, so, what would the prices of these weapons manufactured on or before 1941 be?  I have no idea.  Obviously it depends on condition, papers, box (though if you could find a box from 1941 I’d  be surprised).  All of the list are common, except for the Webley, which was made in the UK between 1904 and 1918, with a production run of less than 5,000 is rare, and because of the mention in the Maltese Falcon, even harder to find because other folks have had this same bright idea.  I suppose you could substitute a Webley Mk IV in .455, and have a realistic chance of completing the project.  Come to think of it, looking at the film, it looks like that’s similar to what the prop department used (6.00 to 6.20 in this clip).  That would make sense, economically, and it doesn’t look like the action of a real Webley-Fosbery.  (Ain’t the internet grand?)

I don’t know how much this project would cost.  I’ll have to do some research.  If any reader has any information that would help this thought experiment I’d be interested to hear.

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3 Comments »

  1. Hello,

    Your post came up in one of my Google alerts. There is a good chance that Stembridge Gun Rentals provided the firearms for use in the production of The Maltese Falcon. They started renting firearms to the film industry back in 1914. Eventually, a lot of the stock was sold to Robert Peterson of Peterson Publishing, with the idea that he would create a museum to showcase the pieces – that never happened, he passed away, and the heirs sold off the collection in an auction a few years ago.

    I don’t recall any pieces attributed to The Maltese Falcon, but firearms were rented over and over for decades, and I don’t believe any rental agreement records exist prior to the 70s. But it is possible such a weapon ended up in that sale, or may have been sold to another armorer (Stembridge closed in 1998). I have a lot of information on my site if you search on “Stembridge”, including some old magazine articles (like a 1934 article from Modern Mechanix) as well as the Little John’s Auction Service catalog.

    Anyway, it is likely these pieces may very well still exist out there somewhere… but it is unlikely that the owners would know that they were used in the film.

    Jason DeBord

    Comment by Jason DeBord — Saturday, 11, July, 2009 @ 18:21 | Reply

  2. William, anywhere between $5,000 and 25,000 to purchase four quality guns…

    FYI- on the boxes, we have a 1936 Colt NM, new in the original box, never fired, and no it’s not for sale. 🙂

    Comment by Old NFO — Monday, 13, July, 2009 @ 21:18 | Reply

  3. In the book, it was actually the even rarer version of the Webley-Fosbery chambered for .38 ACP. (Not .380 ACP, mind you, but the one that shares the external dimensions with .38 Super)

    Comment by Cybrludite — Friday, 24, July, 2009 @ 05:34 | Reply


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