Saturday 29 December 2007

The Falcon in San Francisco (1945) Joseph H Lewis

Tom Lawrence, the Falcon, and Goldie Locke are on the San Franciscan heading to, well, San Francisco, talking about the tax benefits of getting married, when they bump into a young girl called Annie Marshall. Her maid is killed on the train, with a hatpin no less, so the Falcon starts to takes her home but quickly gets caught up in a mystery. Someone calls the cops and suggests a kidnapping, so he gets locked up but then released on already posted bail by a young lady who climbs all over him. Then the police want him back, but he wakes up from a drugged sleep to the lady he was having dinner with and a couple of fake cops with guns. If this wasn't the movies, you wouldn't believe a word of it.

Actually I believe it and for one good reason. While this is yet another film entry in a detective series, film number eleven of an eventual sixteen for the Falcon, the story isn't. It's a hard boiled film noir that would have worked far better for Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe than it ever did for Tom Conway as the Falcon. The story doesn't just unfold, it hits the face of the lead character with an impact and he spends the rest of the movie trying first to work out what is going on and only then to work out whodunit. Conway is fine, but he plays his usual gentleman detective in a story that isn't about gentlemen. He's out of place, or rather the story is out of place as Conway as the Falcon has worked well for seven films.

The cast is solid, but everyone plays second fiddle to the story. Edward Brophy is Goldie Locke this time out, taking a role that originated with his frequent thirties co-star Allen Jenkins, and of course he's there for the comic relief trying to find a wife for tax reasons. Rita Corday is a heroine pleasing to the eye, though she's outshone by her younger sister Annie played by Sharyn Moffett. Fay Helm is an excellent tough woman but Robert Armstrong doesn't get enough screen time to get his teeth into being a former bootlegger turned shipping line manager.

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