The Gay Falcon

The Gay Falcon 1941 B film is the first in a series of 16 films about a suave detective nicknamed The Falcon. Intended to replace the earlier The Saint detective series, the first film took its title from the lead character, Gay Laurence.[Note 1] George Sanders was cast in the title role; he had played The Saint in the prior RKO series. He was teamed again with Wendy Barrie who had been with him in three previous Saint films.[3] The first four films starred Sanders as Gay Lawrence and the balance featured Tom Conway, Sanders' real-life brother, as "Tom Lawrence," brother of Gay.[4]

The Gay Falcon
Directed byIrving Reis
Produced byHoward Benedict
Screenplay by
Based on"The Gay Falcon"
1940 story inTown & Country
by Michael Arlen
Music byPaul Sawtell
CinematographyNicholas Musuraca
Edited byGeorge Crone
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • October 24, 1941 (1941-10-24)[1]
Running time
67 minutes
CountryUnited States


Ladies' man and amateur crime solver Gay Laurence (George Sanders), the "Gay Falcon", reluctantly agrees to give up both habits to mollify his fiancée, Elinor Benford (Nina Vale). He and his uncouth sidekick, Jonathan "Goldie" Locke (Allen Jenkins), become unenthusiastic stockbrokers. When Elinor asks him to attend a party given by Maxine Wood (Gladys Cooper) to mingle with potential clients, he refuses to go to that much trouble.

However, when Wood asks for his help via pretty assistant Helen Reed (Wendy Barrie), he cannot resist. It seems that Wood's soirées have been plagued by jewel thefts, and she is particularly worried about the diamond of her guest, Vera Gardner (Lucile Gleason).

At the party, Elinor becomes annoyed when she figures out why Gay changed his mind about attending, and retaliates by dancing with Manuel Retana (Turhan Bey). In frustration, she grabs the flower from Retana's lapel and flings it at Gay. He calmly picks it up and attaches it to his lapel. Vera Gardner then insists on dancing with Gay; she hands him her diamond secretly, much to his puzzlement, then leaves the room. Moments later, a shot rings out, and she is dead. The killer is seen by Goldie as he makes his getaway.

Police Detectives Bates (Edward Brophy) and Grimes (Eddie Dunn) take Goldie to the police station on suspicion of murder. Gay persuades Inspector Mike Waldeck (Arthur Shields) to release Goldie so he can flush out the real murderer. Then he and Helen go to see Maxine, leaving Goldie in the car. While they are gone, Goldie is abducted by Noel Weber (Damien O'Flynn), Gardner's killer. Weber orders Goldie to call Gay to offer to trade Goldie's life for the diamond. However, Weber is shot, and once again, Goldie is found by the police near a dead body.

By this point, Gay suspects Gardner arranged to have her diamond "stolen" so she could collect on the insurance. The flower was a signal, indicating to whom Gardner was to give the jewel. It should have been Retana. Gay and Helen break into his apartment, but have to hide when the owner enters. He realizes someone has been there and opens a secret compartment to check if it has been found. Relieved, he leaves the room. Gay sneaks in and takes a gun he finds in the compartment, fairly certain it was used to shoot Weber. The police confirm it is the murder weapon.

Meanwhile, Gay calls Elinor to warn her to stay away from the killer, but she believes he is lying out of jealousy and tells Retana so. Forewarned, Retana goes to Gay's apartment, ties up his servant Jerry (Willie Fung), and demands the diamond at gunpoint when Gay returns. He is frightened off when he mistakes Helen at the door for the police.

Now certain about his theory, Gay goes to see Maxine, taking Inspector Waldeck along. She tells them she has been receiving threats, so they stand guard in the living room while she sleeps. Retana enters through her bedroom window, but when he lunges at her, Gay and Waldeck charge in. They are puzzled when Retana collapses and dies. Then Gay finds a hypodermic needle on the floor. Gay stops Maxine from stepping on it and destroying the incriminating fingerprints. He reveals that she, her husband Weber, and Retana were responsible for the thefts. The Webers decided to betray Retana, but he found out. Gay realized she must be involved when Goldie was kidnapped; nobody else knew where Goldie was at the time.



The Gay Falcon was intended by RKO Radio Pictures to introduce a replacement for The Saint series, after RKO decided to sever ties with Leslie Charteris, the creator of the Saint who disapproved of the way the studio had been adapting his stories, especially with how George Sanders was playing the title character.[5] Renewing the film rights to the latter character would also be too expensive.[6]

After RKO decided to replace the "Saint" series, the studio began to search for a new mystery character similar to the "Saint". George Sanders, on loan to RKO from Twentieth Century-Fox, was retained in the lead role.

In March 1941, the studio bought the rights to Michael Arlen's story "The Gay Falcon", saying they intended Sanders and Wendy Barrie to star.[7]

They assigned Lynn Root and Frank Fenton to work on the script, resulting in Charteris suing RKO on the grounds that "the Falcon was the Saint in disguise."[8]

Filming started May 1941.[9]

At one stage RKO considered calling the film Meet the Falcon before reverting to The Gay Falcon.[10][11]

In June 1941 RKO announced the Falcon would be a series.[12] In July, Sanders, Barrie and Allen Jenkins were announced for the second film.[13]

In September 1941 RKO officially dropped the Saint series.[14] In November 20th Century Fox gave RKO the right to make three more Falcon films with Sanders.[15]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 100% based on 1 review.[16] In his review of Falcon series, Bosley Crowther wrote, in The New York Times, that, "There must be a "Falcon" series; RKO seems determined on that." [17]The Gay Falcon made a profit of $108,000.[18]



  1. Although Michael Arlen's character is named Gay Falcon, the name appears first as Gay Laurence then as "Gay Lawrence" in subsequent screen credits.[2]


  1. "Detail view:'The Gay Falcon'." American Film Institute. Retrieved: April 14, 2014.
  2. Miller, Frank. "Articles: 'A Date with the Falcon'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 4, 2016.
  3. Gay Falcon, The Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 8, Iss. 85, (Jan 1, 1941): 148.
  5. Arnold, Jeremy. "Articles: 'The Gay Falcon'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 4, 2016.
  6. "Review: 'The Gay Falcon'." Allmovie. Retrieved: July 25, 2012.
  7. Universal Buys 'The Man Who Lived Alone' as Vehicle for Margaret Sullavan. New York Times 20 Mar 1941: 24.
  8. "Notes: 'The Gay Falcon'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 4, 2016.
  9. News of the Screen The Christian Science Monitor 2 May 1941: 16.
  10. Flash Needed in Films; Maybe Landis Has It: Youth Movies Analyzed Rogers Juveniles Again 'Torpedo Boat' Bought Bolger Star Tale Wanted Hayward on Sick List Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 26 May 1941: A13.
  11. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Metro Abandons 'Honky Tonk' --New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]06 June 1941: 25.
  12. RKO WILL RELEASE 40 NEW PICTURES New York Times 18 June 1941: 25.
  13. 20th Pays Huge Price for Story of Dunkirk: Harmon 'Twin' Signed Metro Captures Dingle Barrie 'Falcon' Heroine Dodd, Davies New Duet McDonald Debut Planned Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (8 July 1941: 14.
  14. ODDS AND ENDS ANENT THE FILMS: RKO Drops the 'Saint' -- Notes From London and Other Items By THOMAS M. PRYOR. New York Times 21 Sep 1941: X3.
  15. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda to Appear in 'Little Pinks' -- Fox to Make 'Impostor' THEATRE BUSINESS BOOMS Record Crowds at Paramount, Music Hall and the Strand During Holiday Period By Telephone to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times 22 Nov 1941: 11.
  16. "The Gay Falcon (1941)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  17. Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: The Screen." The New York Times, October 3, 1942.
  18. Jewell and Harbin 1982, p. 164.


  • Jewell, Richard and Vernon Harbin. The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1982. ISBN 978-0-7064-1285-7.
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