I know what you’re thinking… I like the Lone Wolf, but what do you have in an ornithologically themed gentleman detective? Well, you are in luck. Today we have the films of a gentleman (and his brother) called The Falcon. Michael Arlen created The Falcon in a short story in Town and Country and was quickly thrown up on the screen by RKO a year later. Basically, every aspiring writer’s wet dream is fulfilled by a studio looking to enter the gentleman detective film franchise business.
The Falcon – The Films
The Falcon first speedily appeared in The Gay Falcon in 1941, played by George Sanders. To quell the hysterical reaction of your collective inner twelve-year-olds, the name originated with the character’s name of Gay Lawrence. Okay, that probably didn’t help. The character’s name was Gay Falcon, which explained the name in the original story. The films fell back on using The Falcon as a nickname. Sanders played The Falcon in 4 films, then, in The Falcon’s Brother, he passed the role to Tom Conway, who played the Falcon’s brother and was, in fact, George Sanders’ real-life brother.
The Falcon – The Furs
The entire series was filmed in the early ’40s, but the reliable gentleman detective theme overcame the day’s fashions and provided some very nice furs. Not every Falcon film featured great furs, and no single film really rises to worthiness on its own (a couple almost make it), but taken as a group, they make for a good survey. So here’s a quick look at the fur fashions of the Falcon films.
The Gay Falcon – 1941
The Falcon came out of the gate strong with Wendy Barrie as the Falcon’s fiancée de-jour in this large white fox coat. Accented with a nice veil, the big white fox fur is well photographed for the few minutes it appears.
The Falcon ends up being a bit of a serial fiance; though Wendy would make it back for another film, this particular white fox would not. Not to worry, there’s a better white fox ahead.
A Date with the Falcon – 1941
Yes, they made films quickly back then. I’m 90% certain this is Mona Maris in a red fox stole near the film’s beginning.
This sequel wasn’t the best of the bunch for furs, but Miss Maris does look fine in this fox stole.
The Falcon Takes Over – 1942
Probably the best of the bunch for 2 reasons, one, this amazing full-length white fox fur coat, and two, because Helen Gilbert is doing a great Veronica Lake impression.
Check out the main gallery for more of this lovely specimen. As this image suggests, Miss Gilbert is playing the bad girl. This film is the first adaption of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. If you want a pretentious amateur film critic analysis, read the IMDb comments, not this blog post.
The end of The Falcon Takes Over includes what would become a standard trope of the Falcon films: someone appears to ask the Falcon for help on a new case. In this case, it’s a group of showgirls, some of whom are wearing furs. Sadly, the other standard element of this trope is that it actually has nothing to do with the next film.
The Falcon’s Brother – 1942
George Sanders must have realized they wouldn’t have a better fur than the white fox in The Falcon Takes Over, so he wanted to move on. Or maybe there was another reason. In any case, The Falcon’s Brother did not carry the fur fashion momentum of the previous film and gave us only this silver fox stole worn by Amanda Varela.
The Falcon In Danger – 1943
The second best Falcon film for fur fashion, this one features several furs on-screen simultaneously. First up is the showcase fur, a long silver fox cape worn by Amelita Ward, playing The Falcon’s latest main squeeze.
As the mystery unfolds, ladies in fur gather at the airport with The Falcon. Amelita and her silver fox meet with Elaine Shepard in this full-length mink coat.
Finally, by process of elimination, I think this is Jean Brooks in a spotted fur collar, which would not have ordinarily been noteworthy without Miss Ward’s silver fox being in the shot.
The Falcon and the Co-eds – 1943
Another light entry, which gives us, at the very end, this actress in a short-haired fur hat and muff.
Which wouldn’t really have made it either if not for being a few seconds away from the Falcon’s latest end-of-film setup as this lovely lady appears in a short fox jacket to ask for The Falcon’s help on another new case before the credits roll.
The Falcon in Mexico – 1944
Much like the fur-carrying showgirls at the end of The Falcon Takes Over, that lady in fox isn’t in the next film, The Falcon Out West, which has only a single rather bland mink to show for it. Thankfully the next sequel has two very full fox jackets, starting with this white fox on The Falcon’s current girlfriend, who’s in this film for about a minute.
The Falcon sends his girlfriend off for the rest of the film then immediately catches this very well-dressed burglar (Cecilia Callejo) in the act of breaking into a gallery to steal a painting for which she posed, wearing this large marble blue fox fur jacket.
The Falcon in San Francisco – 1945
We end on neither a high nor low point, as Fay Helm (I think) brings us this very nice silver fox fur coat as she bails the Falcon out of jail.
Fay’s a bad girl, so the silver fox is a good fit, as is her smoking at the restaurant she brings the Falcon to after bailing him out.
This is a pretty good showing for a series of films from the ’40s. Not all of them are really great, and there’s the oddball The Falcon in Hollywood (1944), which by all rights should have been the best of the bunch but was completely dry. Whatever the reason, the wardrobe requirements for the gentleman detective film took a valiant stand against the fashions of the day, and we all got something good out of it.