The Falcon (film character)
The Falcon is the nickname for two fictional detectives. Drexel Drake (real name Charles H. Huff) created Michael Waring, alias the Falcon, a freelance investigator and troubleshooter, in his 1936 novel, The Falcon's Prey. It was followed by two more novels – The Falcon Cuts In, 1937, and The Falcon Meets a Lady, 1938 – and a 1938 short story. Michael Arlen created Gay Stanhope Falcon in 1940. This Falcon made his first appearance in Arlen's short story "Gay Falcon" (aka "A Man Called Falcon"), which was originally published in 1940 in Town & Country magazine. The story opens with the words "Now of this man who called himself Gay Falcon many tales are told, and this is one of them". Arlen's Falcon is characterized as a freelance adventurer and troubleshooter – a man who makes his living "keeping his mouth shut and engaging in dangerous enterprises."
|Gay Stanhope Falcon/Gay Laurence/Tom Laurence/Michael "Mike" Waring|
|First appearance||The Falcon's Prey|
|Created by||Drexel Drake|
|Portrayed by||George Sanders (film) |
Tom Conway (film)
Barry Kroeger (radio)
James Meighan (radio)
Les Tremayne (radio)
Les Damon (radio)
George Petrie (radio)
John Calvert (film)
Charles McGraw (television)
Arlen's Falcon was quickly brought to the screen by RKO. The 1941 movie The Gay Falcon redefined the character as a suave English gentleman detective with a weakness for beautiful women. The film was intended to establish a replacement character for Leslie Charteris' Simon Templar, aka The Saint, who had appeared in a popular RKO film series. To that end, George Sanders, star of The Saint series, was cast in the Falcon role.
Though Gay Falcon was the character's name in Arlen's original story, the character was renamed Gay Laurence for the film. (The surname was spelled "Lawrence" in subsequent films.) Thus "The Falcon" became an alias, or nickname (à la "The Saint"). In later outings, in various media, the character had a variety of "real names," while still being known as The Falcon. Neither in films nor on radio was the nickname ever explained.
Sanders appeared in the first three Falcon films, which followed the "Saint" pattern so closely that author Charteris sued RKO for plagiarism. (Charteris pokes fun at The Falcon in his 1943 novel The Saint Steps In, with a character making a metafictional reference to the Falcon being "a bargain-basement imitation" of The Saint.) The Falcon is almost always accompanied in his travels by a wisecracking sidekick, portrayed variously by Allen Jenkins (in the first three Sanders films), Cliff Edwards, Don Barclay, Edward Brophy, and Vince Barnett.
When Sanders tired of B leads, he bowed out of the series in The Falcon's Brother (1942). In the film, Gay Lawrence's brother, Tom Lawrence, became the new Falcon, and was portrayed by Sanders' actual brother, Tom Conway. After The Falcon's Brother, Conway starred in nine more Falcon films through 1946.
As with other series of B mystery films, the plot of a Falcon movie generally revolved around a particular locale that the detective was visiting. An oft-used gimmick in the Falcon series was to tack "teaser" epilogues onto the ends of films. In a teaser, a previously unseen character would approach the Falcon, usually in comic fashion, and signal the title and locale of his next movie. A teaser rarely had anything to do with the plot of the upcoming film, since that film had not yet been produced.
The Falcon was revived for three more films, all made in 1948, but these featured the earlier "Michael Waring" character as created by Drexel Drake. However, he was referred to as "Watling" and the credits still claimed he was based on a character created by Michael Arlen. Actor-magician John Calvert played "The New Falcon" in three low-budget features produced by Film Classics. The character went on to appear (as Michael Waring) in radio and television – Charles McGraw portrayed the Falcon in the 39-episode syndicated television series Adventures of the Falcon (1954–55).
- Starring George Sanders as Gay Lawrence
- Starring George Sanders and Tom Conway as the Lawrence brothers; Gay is murdered and Tom Lawrence, his brother, becomes The Falcon
- The Falcon's Brother (1942)
- Starring Tom Conway as Tom Lawrence
- Starring John Calvert as Michael Waring