Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Falcon in Hollywood (1944)

THE FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD is an especially entertaining entry in the long-running series, notable for a bevy of lovely leading ladies, a fun cameo, and a lengthy tour of the RKO Studios lot.

Tom Lawrence, aka the Falcon, is relaxing at the racetrack when he meets up with a gorgeous but nutty numerologist (Rita Corday) and a pretty young movie actress (Barbara Hale), not to mention the actress's shady former employer (Sheldon Leonard).

 The Falcon attempts to help the ladies when there's a mix-up with their purses, and that leads him to a fast-driving lady cabbie (Veda Ann Borg) and then a movie studio murder, with one of the suspects being a costume designer (Jean Brooks). A pair of L.A. cops (Emory Parnell and Frank Jenks) are constantly on the Falcon's tail, always just a bit slow to catch up with the latest developments.

I found this movie to be a great deal of fun. Like Lew Landers' CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938) a few years before, it's filmed all over the RKO lot, masquerading this time around as "Sunset Pictures." The settings include the prop and miniatures departments along with random walkways and soundstages. I noted that it feels like a more authentic peek at moviemaking than the recently seen LADY KILLER (1933).

Be watching for a hilarious cameo which I almost missed. During the scene where Tom is arguing with the studio guard for admission onto the lot, Conway's real-life brother, previous FALCON star George Sanders, walks past them; he's wearing a hat and turns his head away from Conway with a sly smile. He's so close to the camera it's almost difficult at first to realize it's him if you're not watching carefully.

There's also an ultra-obvious blooper: Early on in the film, the taxi driver takes the Falcon on a wild ride to Sunset Pictures, with him sliding around in the backseat, yet when they pull up at the gate, he's driving and she gets out of the backseat! Either a scene was cut where the Falcon insisted on taking over the wheel or the filmmakers completely lost track of continuity there.

One of the murders in the film takes place inside the empty Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. There's not really much story reason for the scene to take place there, but the location shoot adds some visual interest.

This was Barbara Hale's second FALCON film; she had previously starred as a different character in THE FALCON OUT WEST (1944). Rita Corday and Jean Brooks were FALCON veterans; before the series came to an end they would each appear in half a dozen FALCON entries apiece, never as the same character. I sometimes wonder if the same faces appearing over and over was confusing for audiences who saw these films as they were released!  I imagine, though, audiences became used to it, just as actors would later play different roles in episodic TV series.

THE FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD was directed by Gordon Douglas. It was the only film he directed in the series. Photography was by Nicholas Musuraca; it was also his only work in the series. The movie runs 67 minutes.

THE FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD was just released on DVD in the Warner Archive's remastered The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Vol. 2. It's also available on Region 2 DVD in Europe.

Reviews of the earlier films in the series: THE GAY FALCON (1941), A DATE WITH THE FALCON (1942), THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942), THE FALCON'S BROTHER (1942), THE FALCON STRIKES BACK (1943), THE FALCON IN DANGER (1943), THE FALCON AND THE CO-EDS (1943), THE FALCON OUT WEST (1944), and THE FALCON IN MEXICO (1944).


Blogger Vienna said...

Laura, after reading your review, I've got this film recently and look forward to seeing it. I like the idea of seeing some of the RKO lot.

7:03 AM  

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