16 January 2013 | robert-temple-1
The last Falcon film
This is the 16th and last of the Falcon films based upon the detective character 'the Falcon' created by novelist Michael Arlen (1895-1956, best known for his best-seller of 1924, THE GREEN HAT) in his 1940 short story entitled 'Gay Falcon'. It is the third and last of the extremely low-budget Falcon films starring John Calvert in the title role, which brought the cinematic excursions of the Falcon to a close. In this last effort, the Calvert Falcon films finally got into their stride, just before expiring forever. Somebody told Calvert to stop grinning (I have previously likened this grimacing of his to a dog trying to imitate a human smile), and he plays the role completely straight, which works much better. The whole film is played straight, in fact. The script is better this time, and although there is some excellent hard-boiled dialogue, there are no wisecracks, jokes, or any attempt at humour. The plot is extraordinarily complex and ingenious, and for those who enjoy watching old B film mysteries, this one has some unusual twists and is well worth watching. As the other reviewer has also pointed out, there are numerous good location shots of 1949 Los Angeles. Of course, the three Calvert Falcon films were a far cry from the witty sophistication of the originals of 1941 and 1942 starring George Sanders, a tradition carried on with gusto by his real-life brother Tom Conway for several years. Those Falcon films helped a war-weary populace find some welcome entertainment, diversion, and laughs during the War years. By 1947, the 'franchise', if such there were, was evidently sold to new low-budget producers, and only the name and idea of 'the Falcon' continued, since even his real character name was changed. I suspect this sale of rights must have happened, because the name of Michael Arlen continued to appear in the initial credits of these last three films on prominent display, as contracts normally require. There is a floozy dame in this called Wilma, in the finest Raymond Chandler tradition (played by Myrna Dell). The story is by Jerome ('Jerry') Epstein, who later became a producer and director and scripted and directed Elmer Rice's THE ADDING MACHINE in 1969. I met Jerry in 1966 on the set of A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG (1967), the last film directed by Charlie Chaplin, some of which I watched being made. Jerry produced that film, and he was a very charming and amiable guy. He died in 1991, having left the film business in 1972. Jerry had been an uncredited Associate Producer of Chaplin's A KING IN NEW YORK in 1957, which is presumably when they met. Charlie trusted him, and they seemed to work amicably together. I used to know more about their friendship and association, but I have forgotten it. Jerry was a very easy person to chat to, being friendly and gregarious by nature. I believe that Jerry and Charlie shared leftish political views, which made them closer. It was thus interesting for me to see what a clever mystery plot Jerry was capable of coming up with in 1949. Jerry put Charlie's son Sydney Chaplin into THE ADDING MACHINE. Sydney had also been in A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, which was the only time I ever met Sydney, 1926-2009, who was a frank, open, and rather delightful charmer to talk to. He was an older half-brother of the better known Chaplin children Geraldine (who was also in A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG) and Victoria, the brilliant acrobat and circus performer. Having met all of those Chaplins, I marvel at the DNA involved! The family genius shows no signs of petering out, as Victoria's children are also so brilliantly talented. But back to this film. The script was by Don Martin, who had scripted the other two Calvert Falcon films. I don't know why his script for this one was so much better than the others, but perhaps he made the extra effort because he was made Producer of this one, which was his only producing job in his career of writing thriller and Western novels and scripts for films and TV. In order to be helpful for Falcon hunters, and having now reviewed them all, I am here adding a chronological list of the 16 Falcon films, with their dates of release and the names of the starring actors.
FALCON FILMS: In chronological order of production and release:
1. The Gay Falcon (1941) starring George Sanders 2. A Date with the Falcon (1942) starring George Sanders 3. The Falcon Takes Over (1942) starring George Sanders 4. The Falcon's Brother (1942) starring George Sanders and Tom Conway 5. The Falcon Strikes Back (1943) starring Tom Conway 6. The Falcon in Danger (1943) starring Tom Conway 7. The Falcon and the Co-Eds (1943) starring Tom Conway 8. The Falcon Out West (1944) starring Tom Conway 9. The Falcon in Mexico (1944) starring Tom Conway 10. The Falcon in Hollywood (1944) starring Tom Conway 11. The Falcon in San Francisco (1945) starring Tom Conway 12. The Falcon's Alibi (1946) starring Tom Conway 13. The Falcon's Adventure (1946) starring Tom Conway 14. Devil's Cargo (1948) starring John Calvert 15. Appointment with Murder (1948) starring John Calvert 16. Search for Danger (1949) starring John Calvert