Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tonight's Movie: The Falcon Strikes Back (1943)

Six months after George Sanders exited the FALCON series in THE FALCON'S BROTHER (1942), Tom Conway took over the franchise starring solo in THE FALCON STRIKES BACK.

Conway, who was Sanders' older brother in real life, had been introduced as Tom Lawrence, the brother of Sanders' Gay Lawrence, in THE FALCON'S BROTHER. This time around Tom picks up where Gay left off, waking up with a hangover and immediately involved with three beautiful women: perky reporter Marcia Brooks (Jane Randolph), first met by Tom in THE FALCON'S BROTHER; resort manager Gwynne Gregory (Harriet Hilliard, better known as Harriet Nelson); and the mysterious Mia Bruger (Rita Corday).

Tom becomes entangled with a ring to steal war bonds; along the way he's involved with a group of volunteer knitters and conducts an investigation at the elegantly rustic Pinecrest Hotel.

Harriet Hilliard looks especially lovely as the hotel manager who may or may not be a crook. It's always a treat to see her from the earlier part of her career, before she was better known as Ricky and David's mother!

THE FALCON STRIKES BACK is an especially good entry in the series, 66 well-paced minutes filled with colorful characters and an attractive setting. The hotel makes an especially pleasing backdrop for the mystery; I'd love to know where the exterior swimming pool scenes were shot. (It's also fun to spot the smooth editing in of Rita Corday's diving double.) Tom Conway plays the Falcon as though it's been his part from Day One, and the whole formula works very well.

It's interesting to note this title was directed by Edward Dmytryk, who would soon show his talent on Grade "A" films such as MURDER, MY SWEET (1944), TILL THE END OF TIME (1946), and CROSSFIRE (1947).

The Velma Dawson Puppets add an unusual bit of color to the film; Dawson was the creator of the Howdy Doody marionettes. It's interesting to note that one of the puppets is of Disney's Goofy; RKO, which made the FALCON series, released Disney films in that era.

Jane Randolph returned to the series for the second and final time as Marcia Brooks. Marcia fills the same type of role Wendy Barrie played in the first two films, dazzled by the Falcon's kisses and jealously fending off other women, while occasionally serving as his Gal Friday. In between making THE FALCON'S BROTHER and THE FALCON STRIKES BACK, Randolph and Conway costarred with Kent Smith and Simone Simon in the Val Lewton-Jacques Tourneur classic CAT PEOPLE (1942).

Rita Corday would go on to appear in four more FALCON films, in a variety of roles. Despite a significant number of credits under the name Rita Corday, in 1947 she was billed in Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s THE EXILE (1947) under the name Paule Croset. Then in the '50s she began acting under yet another name, Paula Corday.

Jean Brooks, who plays the Spanish-speaking girl asking the Falcon's help at the end of the movie, would also appear in four more FALCON films, playing a different role in each one!

Cliff Clark and Edward Gargan return as long-suffering Inspector Donovan and the hapless Detective Bates, while Richard Loo succeeds Keye Luke, the most recent actor to have played the Falcon's houseboy, Jerry. Loo is quite delightful in an expanded role, showing up undercover at Pinecrest to help solve the mystery. Cliff Edwards picks up the part of the Falcon's right-hand man, Goldie Locke, from Allen Jenkins, who played the role in the first three films; Don Barclay's Lefty of THE FALCON'S BROTHER is absent.

One almost needs a scorecard to follow the revolving cast members and characters throughout the series -- although, truth to tell, it doesn't really matter very much, except to those of us who like to keep track of such things! Each film is a self-contained story which can be enjoyed by anyone new to the series.

The earlier films in the Falcon series, preceding THE FALCON'S BROTHER, were THE GAY FALCON (1941), A DATE WITH THE FALCON (1942), and THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942).

THE FALCON STRIKES BACK is available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive in The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume I.

It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger barrylane said...

There is quite a nice post by Jane Randolph's daughter. See Gstaad Life: Jane Del Amo's birthday.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you so much for mentioning this! Here's a link for other readers:

I was delighted by the mention of SISSI, a series of films I have come to love over the last year or two.

Best wishes,

8:21 PM  

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