Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In short: The Gay Falcon (1941)

Playboy criminologist, international adventurer, and charming rogue Gay (ah, different times) Laurence, also known as The Falcon (George Sanders), has supposedly retired from all the interesting things in life and is now in the serious business of sitting in an office drinking spinach juice. Apart from the spinach juice, that’s exactly how Gay’s fiancée Elinor (Nina Vale/Anne Hunter) wants it.

Of course, when one Helen Reed (Wendy Barrie) asks our hero for help catching the crook or crooks stealing valuable jewellery from various rich ladies during high society parties, he’s very quickly in the charming rogue and crime fighting business again. Elinor is not amused, and her mood will not improve when Gay’s comic relief associate “Goldie” Locke (Allen Jenkins) falls under suspicion of murder, nor when the same thing happens to Gay himself. Well, at least she has tasty international playboy Manuel Retana (Turhan Bey) to distract herself while Gay romances Helen and solves a few crimes.

George Sanders was quite popular as the hero of RKO’s The Saint adaptations (and a much better choice for the role than Val Kilmer decades later), so when RKO started their own series of Saint rip-offs (one suspects so they didn’t have to pay Saint author and creator Leslie Charteris), they let him take on the role of The Falcon, too. Seeing that the two characters are so close as to be basically the same, it’s not much of a surprise that Sanders is pretty fun as The Falcon too, providing the character with the right combination of smarm, actual charm, and dry humour that is allowed to crackle in a screwball style in many a scene where he and Wendy Barrie trade snappy, actually rather bizarre dialogue of a delightful nature.

Of course, and also very typical of this kind of comedic mystery, the film doesn’t care much at all about its mystery. It’s all about the verbal gymnastics, content as risqué as the production code state of affairs allowed, and many a scene that suggests the writers were really just throwing together whatever seemed fun and came to mind, leading to a mystery film full of scenes that don’t have any function at all for the mystery at its core but that are bound to charm those parts of the audience charmable by them, like me.

It is, of course, rather difficult to say all that much about a film that concentrates so much on being a light, fun, dialogue and laugh dispenser, unless on wants to go the sociological route and furrow one’s brow about the way Turhan Bey’s decidedly non-Caucasian character is handled, or things of that sort. This isn’t a film made for furrowed brows, though, so I’ll leave it at declaring The Gay Falcon a perfect example of the kind of fluffy, slick fun a studio like RKO could just throw out in 1941.

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