Cast & Crew
When Waldo Sampson, a brilliant scientist who has developed a process for manufacturing synthetic diamonds, mysteriously disappears, police inspector Mike O'Hara turns to his friend, Gay Lawrence, the debonair sleuth known as "The Falcon," for help. Gay is planning a visit to his fiancée Helen Reed's family and is therefore reluctant to become involved in the case until he meets exotic jewel thief Rita Mara and deduces that the she is involved in Sampson's disappearance. When Gay returns to his apartment, an impatient Helen begins to quarrel with him, but their argument is cut short by the appearance of Rita, who kidnaps Gay but leaves her purse behind. Finding the address of Rita's hotel in her handbag, Helen follows them. On the drive, Gay escapes his captor by flagging down a police car and pretending that he is drunk. After returning to his apartment, Gay learns from his sidekick, Jonathon "Goldy" Locke, that Helen has gone to the hotel. Gay follows, and when he discovers that Waldo Sampson is registered at the hotel, he becomes suspicious and breaks into Sampson's room, where he finds the scientist's dead body. Before the police arrive, Gay removes a picture from the dead man's pocket watch. The police then burst into the room, but Gay convinces O'Hara to give him twelve hours to capture Sampson's murderer before arresting him. Gay then visits Sampson's laboratory, where he finds a fake telegram from Sampson's brother Herman, prompting the detective to examine the photograph that he found in the dead man's watch. To trap Sampson's killers, Gay tells Goldy to send Helen to meet him at a nightclub, explaining that the murderers will follow Helen and Goldy should follow them. At the club, Rita abducts Gay once again and takes him to her accomplice, Max Carlson, who is holding Sampson captive at his warehouse. Max has extracted the secret formula from Sampson, and instructs Rita to kill Gay and Sampson while he sells the formula. As Max drives off, Goldy sideswipes his car, and in the ensuing fight, Goldy is arrested for drunken driving. Soon after, the police arrive at Max's warehouse and rescue Gay and Sampson. After convincing Rita that Max plans to double-cross her, Gay disarms one of the officers and flees with Rita, who takes him to Max's meeting, where she shoots Max. Discovering that Max no longer has the formula, Rita knocks Gay unconscious and departs. Finding Gay with Max's body, O'Hara arrests him for murder and takes him to headquarters, where he is holding Helen as an accomplice. At that moment, O'Hara's assistant, Bates, bursts in with Rita and Max's gang in handcuffs. Gay then explains that by using the clues of the fake telegram and photograph, he deduced that the dead man was not Waldo Sampson but his twin brother Herman. The case is solved when Goldy produces Sampson's formula, which he took from Max during their fight. Helen and Gay then board their plane, but once on,board, a beautiful young woman greets Gay, arousing Helen's jealousy.
John L. Cass
Robert De Grasse
A Date With the Falcon
It wasn't an issue in the 1940 Michael Arlen story, "The Gay Falcon," published in Town and Country magazine. As Arlen wrote it, the rough-hewn character living just inside the law was actually named Gay Falcon. When RKO Studios bought the rights to his story, looking for a less expensive way to continue Sanders' detective series "The Saint," they changed the name to Gay Lawrence and gave the character more sophistication. In 17 films, under three different names (one for each of the three actors who played him), the character fought criminals and secret agents, almost all of whom knew his nickname, but none of whom ever explained what it meant.
Arlen had made his name with a more serious -- and scandalous -- novel called The Green Hat, that, in bowdlerized form, became a vehicle for Greta Garbo as A Woman of Affairs (1928). He never wrote any other Falcon stories, even though the studio would later advertise the films as being based on the Falcon novels. That may have been a reference to books RKO generated as a promotional tie-in with the film, including two credited to Sanders.
RKO had introduced Sanders in the role in The Gay Falcon earlier in 1941. They also had given him a wisecracking assistant (Allen Jenkins) to help with the leg work and a girlfriend (Wendy Barrie) to chase Sanders while he chased lawmakers and a series of beautiful and almost always available female witnesses, accomplices and red herrings. It was supposed to be a new series, but Leslie Charteris, author of the Saint novels on which Sanders' earlier detective series had been based, saw a few too many similarities to his work and sued (details of the actual suit have never been revealed).
For A Date with the Falcon, RKO kept the same basic team, including producer Howard Benedict, director Irving Reis and writers Lynn Root and Frank Fenton. With no more Arlen stories to draw on, they added a suspicious police inspector played by James Gleason. The personnel would change frequently in The Falcon series. Lawrence would go through a number of comic sidekicks and meddling police inspectors as actors became unavailable and the writers approached individual films differently. Wanting to get out of B movies, Sanders would give up the role after four films (he had also done five films as The Saint). His replacement in The Falcon's Brother (1942) was his off-screen brother, Tom Conway, now playing Tom Lawrence.
Although A Date with the Falcon ends with Sanders engaged to leading lady Wendy Barrie and on the way to meet her parents, she would never turn up again. After two attempts at giving Gay Lawrence a steady girlfriend, RKO would abandon the idea. Barrie, a British actress often more interested in partying than acting, left RKO after A Date with the Falcon. She had spent most of her time there in B movies, with the studio trading in on her prominent social life (at the time she was dating high profile gangster Bugsy Siegel). After floundering as a freelance actress, she would finally resurface as one of the first television talk-show stars, displaying a carefree personality that rarely had come through in her film work.
But though the Falcon films were far from the most prominent productions at RKO, they have an important place in Hollywood history. Besides serving, as most series films did, as a testing ground for young talent (including director Edward Dmytryk and actors Barbara Hale and Jane Greer) the increasingly cynical films provided a testing ground for a new genre - film noir. As Gay and Tom Lawrence's cases grew increasingly twisted, they began to reflect the paranoid attitudes to come in the post-war era. One Falcon film, 1942's The Falcon Takes Over, was even based on Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, with Gay Lawrence standing in for Philip Marlowe in what would be re-made as the seminal film noir Murder, My Sweet (1944).
Producer: Howard Benedict
Director: Irving Reis
Screenplay: Frank Fenton, Lynn Root
Based on characters created by Michael Arlen
Cinematography: Robert de Grasse
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Alfred Herman
Music: Paul Sawtell
Cast: George Sanders (Gay Lawrence), Wendy Barrie (Helen Reed), James Gleason (Inspector Michael 'Mike' O'Hara), Allen Jenkins (Jonathan 'Goldy' Lock), Mona Maris (Rita Mara), Hans Conried (Federal Hotel Desk Clerk), Victor Kilian (Max Carlson), Elizabeth Russell (Girl on Plane).
by Frank Miller
A Date With the Falcon
The working title of this was was The Gay Falcon Steps In. It was the second picture in RKO's "Falcon" series. For additional information about the series, consult the Series Index and see the entry below for The Gay Falcon.