Brigid O'Shaughnessy is the central antagonist 1941 film The Maltese Falcon. She's a femme fatale who uses her charms and good looks to manipulate the main hero.

She was protrayed by Mary Astor.

History[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

She's introduced to the story as "Ruth Wonderly" who comes to Sam Spade and Miles Archer's office. Using her fake identity, Brigid told Spade that she was from New York and created a fake story about her and her sister, by saying that her younger sister (Corinne) was missing. She ostensibly asks Spade for help in locating her sister, who vanished after writing that she was in San Francisco (she had left General Delivery as her only address). Supposedly, she was seduced by a mysterious man named Floyd Thursby while her wealthy parents were in Honolulu, and then ran away with the man. Miss Wonderly claims that she is hoping to find Corinne before her parents return. She met Thursby at the post office when he was picking up her second (and last) letter to Corinne. She explains what Thursby said: an appointment-date had been arranged to meet her sister that evening (after 8 o'clock) at the St. Mark Hotel.

Miles Archer -- Sam Spade's partner -- walks into the room as Spade fills him on the details of "Wonderly's" story. Before they looked for "Wonderly's" "sister", "Wonderly" warns them about Floyd's violent nature and how she was afraid of him. Archer volunteers to step up to the case (while secretly trying to get to know "Wonderly") As Ruth leaves the room, Miles states that he has an interest in the seemingly helpless woman.

Miles' Death[edit | edit source]

But then, on a dark street at the corner of Bush and Stockton Streets, Miles was lured onto the streets with "Ruth Wonderly" who betrayed him by pulling a gun, and shooting him in a close range.

Spade quickly finds out about his partner's death, and approaches the scene of the crime. A police sergeant shows Miles' body to Spade. Apparently, Archer was caught off guard as he was shot at close range with one bullet, and his overcoat was buttoned with his gun unfired and tucked away on his hip, meaning someone he trusted muse have shot him.

Shorted afterwards, Floyd Thursby was reported to have been shot as well, leading Sam Spade to suspect that both murders were some how linked to each other.

Brigid's True Identity[edit | edit source]

Later that day, still uses her "Ruth Wonderly" persona, Brigid calls Spade stating that she had left the St. Mark Hotel and is now at the Coronet Apartments (#1001) on California Avenue, under the name of Miss Leblanc.

When Sam arrives at the Coronet, Brigid's wearing a striped robe, and she confesses that she previously made up the story about her sister from before, and that her real name was Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Spade and Archer already assumed this, but he forgives her since she warned them about how dangerous Thursby was. She expressed regret at the murder (which he didn't know was her fault), and tried to charm Sam into hiding her from the police knowing how brave and strong he was. Sam Spade complimented her act, knowing how untrustworthy she was. Brigid explains her relationship with Thursby and continues to be worried the police will find her. Spade's about to give up on her case, when she claims she would take her chances, finally getting Spade to cave in and help her with the case.

What She Can Buy Spade With[edit | edit source]

After Spade's encounter with Joel Cairo, Spade evaded a thug on the street (later revealed to be Wilmer Cook) and revisited Brigid in her hotel room. She still looked fearful but cautious. After Spade observed her suspicious behavior, Brigid offers an understated confession of her base nature, while still looking for sympathy from Sam. Sam's not interested in her trying to play innocent and tries to get more information out of her. Sam tells Brigid that he encountered Cairo earlier, and Brigid asks about Cairo and learns that he "offered $5,000 for the black bird." as she goes around the room straightening things up and hiding the truth. Spade says Cairo was willing to pay a lot of money and Brigid responded by saying it was more than she can ever offer Spade if she had to fight for his loyalty.

Eventually, Spade confronted Brigid and asked what she's given him other than money. Brigid states she doesn't know what else she can buy Spade with, then Spade answers the question by taking her face and kissing her roughly. He demanded to get more information if he would be her protector. Brigid once again tries to hold back, but she agreed to speak to Cairo.

Spade phones and leaves a message at Cairo's hotel to meet them in his apartment later that evening. After a wipe left dissolve, they take a cab there. Brigid (wearing the fur that she said she would pawn) and Spade walk by an expectant Iva furtively waiting for him (the spectre of Miles' death trails him everywhere) in a black convertible parked out front.

Brigid and Cairo[edit | edit source]

Cairo joined the group and greeted Brigid with fake compliments. They spoke about Cairo's $5,000 cash offer for the Maltese Falcon and the bird's whereabouts. After admitting that she hasn't "got the Falcon," Brigid promised that she will have it back in about a week from where Floyd Thursby hid it. She claimed that she is selling the bird and disposing of it because she is fearful of the bird's deadly trail and how it led to Thursby's murder. As they guardedly discuss their past dealings with references to the "Fat Man", Cairo gets tense when Brigid mentions he's in San Francisco and she gets excited when he repeats a warning about "the boy outside" (Wilmer, who was spying on the conversion from the outside.) Cairo and Brigid openly detest and mutually insult each other.

Brigid reaches for the gun as they are interrupted by loud knocking at the door and the sound of the buzzer. In the hallway, Spade talks to police detectives Polhaus and Dundy in a second after-hours call. The cops are there because Iva Archer -- Miles' wife -- has informed them that Spade was romantically involved with her and killed Miles to marry her.

The police tried to enter the room, but Spade blocks the doorway. Just as they are about to leave, they hear a scuffle inside between O'Shaughnessy and Cairo. Spade is forced to let the cops in and they barge into the apartment where a fracas in progress. They witness a bloodied, whining Joel Cairo complaining that Spade brutally entrapped him in the apartment where Brigid attacked him and was threatening to kill him. Dundy stands between the two antagonists as he listens to their conflicting versions and explanations of what happened. When Brigid counter-accuses Cairo of lying and then kicks him, Dundy threatens to run everyone into the police station. To extricate them from a possible jailing, Spade explains their rough interrogation of Cairo - a story consistent with their somewhat limited knowledge.

The police still threaten to take them away, but Spade further jokes that the theatrics were all planned. He presses his explanation, exaggerating their conflict and making an intimidated Cairo confess that his questioning was all a joke.

One of the officers tries to punch Spade, but Brigid and Cairo back Spade up, preferring not to press charges against each other, since that would involve them further with the police - and compromise their ability to swiftly search for the falcon. Then, the bewildered police have no choice but to leave, even though they want to get contact information for both Brigid and Cairo.

Cairo leaves the room along with the officers and then Brigid gives Spade another seductive compliment. Spade asks about the black bird again with Brigid responding by explaining the statue appearance. Spade is more interested in why it's so important to so many people. Brigid avoids the subject again by telling yet another tale. She said she was offered the sum of 500 pounds to steal the bird in Turkey, and Cairo and Thursby were in on the heist. However, she and Thursby learned that Cairo had planned to desert them, so they double-crossed Cairo and took off with it. However, Floyd had no intentions of keeping his promise to share the falcon equally with her either.

Sam easily sees through the lie and Brigid admits that she rarely told the truth to him. However the two of them still spend the night together although this is shown offscreen.

They're Onto Her[edit | edit source]

When Spade eventually gets back to his office, Effie tells him about his phone calls and informs that she's admitted Brigid into Spade's inner office where she is waiting for him. When Spade arrives, Brigid appears distraught and tells Spade that her apartment was being thoroughly searched. Effie is very warming to Brigid and agrees to let her stay at her own apartment for safekeeping since Brigid couldn't return to her own place.

The Ship Fire[edit | edit source]

After Spade's meetings and encounters with Mr. Gutman/The "Fat Man", he later regained his conciseness since Gutman had drugged Spade earlier. He calls Effie to discover that Brigid didn't show up as planned, then Spade tells Effie to go to his office. As he was looking for Gutman's hotel suite, Spade finds a newspaper clipping with a notice of Shipping News. Under "Arriving Today," 5:35 pm - La Paloma from Hong Kong has been circled. Spade rushes to the docks just in time to find that the abandoned ship is on fire. One of the dock officers tells Spade that the crew and passengers have survived. Spade then returns to his office, where Effie tends to his bruised face, and he speculates that he was bluffed. Shortly, afterwards, a dying man (who turned out to be the captain of the burning ship) staggers into Spade's inner office to deliver the black bird, crudely wrapped in newspapers.

While Sam and Effie discuss plans for the bird, Brigid calls Sam, and gives her location: 26 Ancho Street in Burlingame. But then she screams, signaling that she is in trouble - and the line goes dead. Effie interprets that she is in danger and needs Spade's immediate assistance . She thinks that the Captain was helping Brigid and they killed him, and Brigid is the next target. Spade orders Effie to call the police after he is gone and tell them how the captain died, without talking about the falcon.

The Criminal Gang's All Together[edit | edit source]

Spade takes the newspaper-wrapped falcon under his arm to a baggage parcel area of the Union Bus Terminal and checks it, then mails himself the claim check stub - addressed to his own postal address at Box 589, P. O. Station C. in the City. Spade hires a taxi to take him to rescue Brigid at 26 Ancho Street, but it is revealed to be an empty lot (for sale) next to a Grocery and Meat Market. He suspects that Brigid tricked him with a fake address - a "bum steer" and "hooey" to get him out of the way. Spade realizes that Brigid has always been a ruthless liar and that she is as deeply involved in the pursuit of the bird as everyone else.

When he returns and is entering the outer doors of his San Francisco apartment, Spade finds a weakened and breathless Brigid waiting for him, and hiding in a doorway up the street. The two of them head up the elevator to his apartment - when he flicks on the lights, Wilmer is hiding and lying in wait with gun drawn behind the front door. Gutman and Cairo are in the living room waiting for them.

Cleverly, he brings together the alliance of self-interested, greedy falcon-seekers to find out the true story. Wilmer wants to frisk Spade, but Spade wouldn't let him. Gutman gets Wilmer to put down the gun and leave Spade alone. Tempted by the financial allure of the bird, Spade asks for his first payment for the falcon - Gutman tests Spade and hands him an envelope with $10,000 - less than the $25,000 promised earlier. Gutman stated the money was the "genuine coin of the realm" and that he can buy ten dollars of talk with one of his dollars.

Spade then decides to use Wilmer as a "fall guy" and blame him for Captain's and Thursby's deaths. Initially, Mr. Gutman refused to hand over Wilmer, since he thought he would tell the police all the details about the falcon, but Sam didn't think they'd believe him. Sam reassures Brigid who sits nervously to the side, telling her everything would be fine. Gutman calls of Wilmer again, getting Spade to suggest other fall-guy alternatives. Eventually they agreed on selling Wilmer out to be the fall guy.

The Interrogation[edit | edit source]

Spade demanded answers from Mr. Gutman about the events that happened earlier. He then explained various points.

  • Brigid left the falcon with Captain Jacobi in Hong Kong and came to San Francisco with Floyd Thursby. Thursby was Brigid's loyal ally - so killing Thursby would be an intimidating show of force for Brigid and persuade her to ally with them. Gutman had tried to make a deal with Thursby before "giving him the works". He spoke to Thursby the night of his death, but failed to reach an agreement, so Wilmer followed him back to the hotel.
  • Captain Jacobi's death was Brigid's fault. She (and Thursby) manipulated Gutman and Cairo in Istanbul, Turkey. She fled with him from Turkey to Hong Kong (and then to the US) - trailed by everyone. Cairo read the docking notice in the newspaper about La Paloma. He surmised that the Captain would be delivering the falcon to Brigid when the ship from Hong Kong arrived. Cairo had also remembered that he heard in Hong Kong that Brigid and Jacobi were seen together.
  • Spade was "slipped a mickey" in Mr. Gutman's words, to keep him out of the way, so Gutman and Cairo could surprise Jacobi and Brigid at the dock. Cairo, Gutman, and Wilmer found Captain Jacobi with Brigid on the ship. She agreed to give up the black bird for a price at Gutman's hotel, but she never arrived, as promised.
  • Wilmer had clumsily set the fire on the ship while he was searching for the "Maltese Falcon"
  • Cairo and Gutman caught up with Captain Jacobi and Brigid at her apartment, with Wilmer covering the fire escape. As the Captain (carrying the falcon) attempted to elude them in flight down the fire escape, Wilmer shot him, but somehow, the sea captain still made his escape.
  • Under harsh questioning, Brigid was "persuaded" to tell them where she had told Jacobi to take the falcon - to Spade's office. She was further "persuaded" to try and lure Spade away from his office to Burlingame with a distressed phone call - before Captain Jacobi arrived. But the call was late in coming and the bird was already delivered into Spade's hands. The gang then reconvened in Spade's apartment to await his arrival, while Brigid hid in the shadows outside.

When Spade received an envelope with $10,000, Mr. Gutman warns that Spade be untrusting of Brigid and not give her much of the money.

The Maltese Falcon[edit | edit source]

The next morning, Effie delivers the Falcon and it is placed on a table in front of the conspirators. The bundle is feverishly unwrapped by Gutman. Gutman stands the statue up, turns it slowly, and strokes and caresses it with lascivious lust. The others salivate at the sight of the valuable, ebony statuette. To make sure it was genuine, he repeatedly and frantically scrapes and hacks at the leaden bird with his penknife, marking it and peeling back layers, realizing that its surface can be scarred and that the coated bird doesn't contain jewels.

Spade blames Brigid for the false statue, but she denies substituting the bird, insisting that it is the bird she got from the Russian general Kemidov. Recomposing himself and accepting another failed attempt, Gutman vows to continue his pursuit of the real bird that is still in Russian hands. After an outburst from Cairo and a moment of sorrow from him, he decides to keep working with Gutman to find the site. But as they left the room, Spade called the police on him and made them get arrested before they left the city.

The Final Confrontation[edit | edit source]

With the criminal trio getting arrested offscreen, Spade realized he had all the information he needed and knew Brigid was involved in Miles' death. He turned towards Brigid and mercilessly forced her to talk as the police were nearby. She finally confessed that she indeed killed Miles Archer.

On the day of Miles' murder, she had hired Gutman and his team as detectives and then told Thursby that he was being followed. She was hoping that Thursby would kill - or be killed - by Archer. She had intended the murder of Archer to be pinned on Thursby, her partner, so that she wouldn't have to split the money with him once Captain Jacobi docked on La Paloma. But, Thursby was unwilling to go along with Brigid's plan, so she decided to kill Spade's partner Archer herself. She borrowed Thursby's gun and lured Archer to his death - in order to incriminate and implicate her accomplice Floyd Thursby. And then, when Thursby was murdered shortly thereafter, she understood that Gutman and Cairo were on her trail again, and she turned to Spade to be her new "protector."

Defeat[edit | edit source]

As a last attempt to save herself, Brigid attempts to throw herself at Spade one final time. Hoping that he will continue to protect her and conceal her crime, she wildly professes the existence of her love for him and begs him not to turn her in. It didn't work, and Sam turns her into the police for killing his partner, and states that if she's still alive after her time in prison, he might consider hanging out with her again.

Eventually, the police show up, and Brigid is handed over to the cops who get informed of Brigid's crimes. They then take her to an elevator that closes and goes down as she disappears from Sam's sight.

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