Wednesday 25 April 2007

The Gay Falcon (1941) Irving Reis

After author Leslie Charteris pulled the plug on the Saint novels because he didn't like where RKO was taking the character, they promptly bought the rights to a copycat character from fiction, Michael Arlen's Gay Lawrence, aka the Falcon (though he's Gay Falcon in the stories), and filmed it with the same actors it had made the Saint films with: George Sanders and Wendy Barrie. Backing them up this time are supporting actors of the calibre of Allen Jenkins, Gladys Cooper and Edward Brophy.

Apparently Gay Lawrence is a gentleman sleuth but he's retired. To impress his fiancee Elinor Benford, he became a broker a day before the events of the film. She wants him to settle down to an honest living and attend one of Maxine Wood's parties but he's not particularly interested. However when he gets home and finds a breathless Wendy Barrie in his apartment, playing Maxine's secretary Helen Reed, he gets to reconsider. Apparently someone is stealing valuable jewels from Maxine's parties and the police aren't having much luck investigating.

Gladys Cooper is socialite Maxine Wood, Jenkins is Lawrence's right hand man Goldie Locke and Edward Brophy is detective Bates, investigating but not getting very far. There's even Turhan Bey, without his turban for a change. The Falcon quickly realises that he's tied up in the insurance scam that lies behind the thefts but he has to investigate the inevitable murders to get to the bottom of it all. Nina Vale plays Elior Benford like a dynamic early Bette Davis and her love/hate relationship with the Falcon provides an enjoyable background to the story that was conspiciously missing from the Saint movies.

She doesn't want him to keep on with his gentleman sleuthing, getting caught up in all sorts of adventurous shenanigans, usually with women involved, and when he ends up in yet another adventure here with a young and pretty woman very much involved, she doesn't buy his excuses. It's a fluffy background but a fun one and it instils The Gay Falcon with a lot of the charm that the Saint films lacked. I wonder if Leslie Charteris sued because the Falcon was a cheap knockoff of the Saint or because he was more fun in the movies.

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