The Falcon (film character)
"Drexel Drake" (a pseudonym of Charles H. Huff) created Michael Waring, alias the Falcon, a free-lance 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.
|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)
Gay Stanhope Falcon was created in 1940 by Michael Arlen. 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; this story opens with the words "Now of this man who called himself Gay Falcon many tales are told, and this is one of them", and may thereby have implied continuity with the earlier Michael Waring series. 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."
The Falcon was quickly brought to the screen by RKO – 1941's 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 suitable replacement character for Leslie Charteris' Simon Templar (aka The Saint, hero of a popular RKO film series). To that end, George Sanders (star of The Saint series) was cast. 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.) Sanders, tired of B leads, bowed out of the series in The Falcon's Brother (1942). The Falcon'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 further Falcon films through 1946, almost always with a wisecracking sidekick, portrayed variously by Edward Brophy, Allen Jenkins (who played the same role in the first three Sanders films), Don Barclay, Cliff Edwards and Vince Barnett.
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 character was revived for three more films, all made in 1948, starring John Calvert as the earlier "Michael Waring" character, but these were unsuccessful. 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
- Featuring Sanders and Tom Conway as the Lawrence brothers. Gay is murdered and Tom Lawrence, his brother, becomes The Falcon
- Starring John Calvert as Michael Waring