Simanaitis Says

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A CAST OF FALCONS

AN ASSEMBLY OF BIRDS OF PREY of the genus Falco is known as a “cast” of falcons. How utterly appropriate, in that I’m thinking of the multiple personages portraying a particular freelance sleuth known as The Falcon. 

One of these Falcons went by the moniker Michael Waring, first appearing in Drexel Drake’s 1936 novel The Falcon’s Prey. After three novels and a short story, this last one in 1938, the Waring Falcon began a ten-year radio presence in 1943.

In 1940 a completely different falcon had arose: Novelist Michael Arlen introduced Gay Stanhope Falcon with “Now of this man who called himself Gay Falcon many tales are told, and this is one of them.” 

Indeed, this sleuth went Hollywood with RKO Radio Pictures renditions of The Gay Falcon (1941), A Date with the Falcon (1942), and yet another that year, The Falcon Takes Over. 

From here on, falconry gets complicated indeed: The Falcon Takes Over, for instance, involves Moose Malloy and his lost girlfriend Velma (Chandler/Marlowe fans, note). Another ten Falcon movies followed, with an actor inheriting the starring role from his brother—and with another sleuth’s author taking RKO Radio Pictures to court about unfair competition.

There was even a Falcon television series in the Fifties that followed three more films, all made in 1948 resurrecting radio’s Michael Waring. 

Talk about a “cast of falcons.” Here are tidbits gleaned from my compulsive listening of SiriusXM’s “Radio Classics” and viewing of Turner Classic Movies’ flicks titled “The Falcon” in some juxtaposition or other.

Great if Predictable Titles: “… Out West,” “… in Danger,” “… in Hollywood,” “… In Mexico,” “… in San Francisco,” and a favorite of mine, “The Falcon’s Brother.” More on this last one anon.

I’m reminded of cowboy movie popularity generating Beneath/In/On/Under the Arizona/California/New Mexico/Pecos/Texas Sky/Stars/Sunshine/Trail.”

Les Damon portrayed the radio Michael Waring/The Falcon (in the early 1950s). Others included Berry Kroeger (1943), James Meighan (1945-1947), Les Tremayne (late 1940s), and George Petrie.

Michael Waring/The Falcon. In his On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, John Dunning recounts Waring’s opening routine: “Each show began with a telephone ringing. It was always a woman calling. Waring, whose smooth voice was laced with a hint of the British, usually addressed her as ‘angel’ or some other endearment. Invariably he had to beg out of a date, using such excuses as ‘I’ve got to teach some gangsters that you can’t get away with murder, especially since the murder they want to get away with is mine.”

RKO’s Falcon. Womanizing was part of the Falcon films as well. In fact, it became something of an inside joke, with Gay Laurence/Lawrence aka The Falcon being what Wikipedia calls “a suave English gentleman detective with a weakness for beautiful women.” 

And, by the way, they for him.

The Teaser. Wikipedia adds, “An oft-used gimmick in the Falcon series was to tack ‘teaser’ epilogues onto the ends of films. In each teaser, a previously unseen woman would approach The Falcon, usually in desperation, 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.”

George Henry Sanders, 1906–1972, Saint Petersburg-born British actor. Among his four wives were Benita Hume (Ronald Colman’s widow) and a pair of Gabors, Zsa Zsa and Magda.

A Saint/Falcon Squabble. After previously being RKO’s The Saint, George Sanders portrayed The Falcon with similar verve. This prompted The Saint’s creator Leslie Charteris to comment, “RKO switched to The Falcon, a flagrant carbon copy of their version of The Saint, in my opinion with the single mercenary motive of saving the payments they had to make to me for the film rights.” Charteris subsequently sued.

A Sanders/Conway Swap. When Sanders tired of falconry, he got himself killed off in The Falcon’s Brother (1942), wherein, conveniently enough, we’re introduced to Gay Lawrence’s brother Tom Lawrence portrayed by Tom Conway. A cool swap, because Sanders and Conway were actually brothers.

Tom Conway, Thomas Charles Sanders, 1904–1967, Saint Petersburg-born British actor. Older brother of George; their father was an out-of-wedlock son of a Russian noblewoman of the Tsar’s court and a prince of the House of Oldenburg who was married to the Tsar’s sister.

Tom chose the name Conway when he became an MGM contract player; his younger brother already had Hollywood cred.

Indeed, Tom Conway’s sleuthing roles included Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond, The Saint, and The Falcon. George Sander’s repertory was somewhat broader: Among other roles, he was Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, Jack Favell in Rebecca, Mr. Freeze in a two-part episode of Batman (1966), the voice of Shere Khan in Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967)as well as The Saint and The Falcon. ds  

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022

One comment on “A CAST OF FALCONS

  1. Jack Albrecht
    December 16, 2022

    It seems to me those old radio shows are to the 30s-50s what Audible now is.

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