Monday, August 7, 2017

The Falcon Goes on a Date...and then Strikes Back!

George Sanders as The Falcon.
A Date With the Falcon (1942) is a direct sequel to the series' first film, The Gay Falcon, with Wendy Barrie returning as Gay Lawrence's fiancée. She wants to whisk the Falcon away to get married. Instead, the debonair adventurer gets involved with an investigation into a missing scientist who has invented a near-perfect synthetic diamond. In fact, almost no one can tell the difference--which could be devastating for the jewelry industry.

The Falcon movies, which starred George Sanders and later his brother Tom Conway, were consistently entertaining "B" detective movies. Sometimes, the "comic relief" (typically provided by the Falcon's crony Goldy Locke) was a bit excessive. However, Sanders and Conway always found a way to elevate these fast-paced programmers above the likes of Charlie Chan, Boston Blackie, and Michael Shayne. Certainly, the brothers were charming on screen and seemed to define the word "suave." But I think their true secret was that they looked like they were having fun--and invited the audience to have fun with them.

A Date With the Falcon is a solid entry in the series, though I do find it silly that the writers decided the Falcon should get engaged. Sanders flirts with every woman in sight, inspiring a flower girl to quip: "He's much too nice and undependable to be taken out of circulation." There was no fiancée in sight when Gay Lawrence returned in The Falcon Takes Over, an unusual reworking of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novel Farewell My Lovely.

Tom Conway as The Falcon's brother.
When George Sanders moved on to bigger roles, RKO casts his real-life brother as Gay Lawrence's brother Tom. The transition was effected rather cleverly in the appropriately-titled The Falcon's Brother (1942). Conway's first solo outing is one of the best in the series, The Falcon Strikes Back (1943).

It opens with Tom Lawrence recovering from a hangover, only to be visited by a beautiful mysterious woman (Rita Corday) that wants him to find her missing brother. Lawrence's search leads to a cocktail bar when he's knocked unconscious. He awakens in the backseat of his convertible and quickly discovers he's been framed for the murder of a bank messenger and the theft of $250,000 in war bonds. When he returns to the cocktail bar, it's now the home of the Volunteer Knitters of America!

Harriet Nelson and Tom Conway.
Lawrence's investigation leads him to the Pinecrest resort hotel, where he encounters more murder, a bizarre puppeteer, and Harriet Nelson from Ozzie and Harriet fame. Who could ask for more?

I've always preferred Tom Conway as the Falcon, perhaps because he seems tougher than George Sanders. The Falcon Strikes Back is an enjoyable series' outing with the added distinction of being directed by Edward Dmytryk one year before Murder, My Sweet cemented his reputation.

Don't you love the irony? An earlier Falcon movie was based on Farewell, My Lovely, which was adapted again in 1944 as Murder, My Sweet. The director of that movie? Edward Dmytryk.


  1. Conway was a lot warmer than his bro. Conway's entry was engineered by his bro, looking to get outta the "B's" hive. Surprising they simply didn't recast him as the same character...Think most prefer Conway. I have memories of one set in a girls' school, which might have had different undertones had Sanders done it.

    1. That's THE FALCON AND THE CO-EDS, a personal favorite and typically considered the best in the series.

  2. Tom Conway has become a most welcome sight over the years in films and TV guest appearances. I have no trouble getting the hubby to watch the Falcon movies as he says "that guy just naturally attracts all the prettiest girls".

  3. I like Tom, too, and especially enjoy "The Falcon and the Co-Eds" with its unforgettable setting.

  4. This is one of The Falcon movies I haven't seen, but it appears to be just as much fun as the others. Love the line from the flower girl who says the Falcon is too nice and undependable to be "taken out of circulation"!