The Gay Falcon

Gasser

The Gay Falcon (1941)

Despite the middle-of-the-road rating I feel compelled to give The Gay Falcon, the movie about retired freelance sleuth Gay Lawrence is far from dull. George Sanders brings a fun liveliness to the lead character who is comically rude to the women in his life and amusingly insulting to those around him.

The Gay Falcon was the first of four movies about the crime solver known as The Falcon that would star George Sanders (The later nine movies would start Tom Conway, Sanders’ brother, as Tom Lawrence, The Falcon’s brother.) But the origin of The Falcon character is suspiciously linked to Leslie Charteris’ The Saint. This movie was made after Sanders made five films as Simon Templar aka The Saint, who was a rogue crime solver who although on the side of the law, worked independently of the police. The story about Gay Lawrence not only featured Sanders and costar Wendy Barrie again but also the same writing crew at RKO that was responsible to the Sanders Saint movies. Charteris sued RKO claiming it had stolen his character. The final disposition in the suit has not be discovered.

But onto the story. Sanders’ Gay Lawrence is attempting to hold down a legitimate office job to appease his fiancée Elinor (Anne Hunter). When the duo go to a party, however, Lawrence is drawn into a case involving jewelry thefts all occurring during parties hosted by Maxine Wood (Gladys Cooper). While dancing with everyone but his fiancée, Lawrence is slipped a large diamond ring from Mrs. Gardiner (Lucile Gleason) and told to protect it from criminals who wish to nab it. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Gardiner is killed.

Helping Lawrence on the case is Maxine’s secretary Helen (Barrie), who is more interested in nabbing the Falcon as a romantic partner than in accomplishing anything. Her continual presence at Lawrence’s apartment and her answering of the phone there, drives Elinor into a constant furry, and she chums up with a Manuel Retana (Turhan Bey) to make her beau jealous.

Meanwhile, The Falcon’s sidekick Goldie Locke, played by Allen Jenkins, is arrested for the first murder for being the only witness on the scene, and for the later killing of one of the suspects. Lawrence also gets himself on bad terms with the police and eliminates his snazzy manner of dress in exchange for a slobbish disguise. The Falcon will solve the case and make his choice of a female partner.

The Gay Falcon brings all the usual elements we expect in a detective (or in this case non-detective) story, but adds a great degree of humor. Although probably not as witty as The Saint, The Falcon sure knows how to toy with women. Barrie is extremely amusing as the sort-of-dumb and definitely worthless partner ever at Lawrence’s heels. Much of the dialogue is outright laughable, but in a good way. Compared to Sanders’ The Saint movies, I would say The Gay Falcon is far less serious, with Sanders having more fun in the role. I will still always prefer his Simon Templar pictures as being of just overall higher quality in terms of plot and performance.

Sources: Ben Mankiewicz, TCM.com

Fools for Scandal

Fools for Scandal (1938)

Gasser

I have to wonder what attracts actors to playing the role of a fictional movie star. Do they say, “Hey, that will be easy. I’m fully qualified for that part.” Whatever the case may be, you can nearly forget that Carole Lombard‘s character in Fools for Scandal is an actress because besides the attention the press gives her, she has no other characteristics of a screen star, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Movie star Kay Winters is visiting France while on break from shooting her latest picture in London. When she pauses to watch the joyous outflow of people from a wedding reception, she is kissed by a member of the crowd whom she thinks mistook her for a member of the wedding party. That man, however, also had just sauntered up to the crowd and spying Kay, thought he could make a seemingly innocent move on her. Rene (Fernand Gravet) is an out-of-work cook who hasn’t a dime to his name and has only just exchanged his day suit for his tuxedo at a pawn shop. He finagles his way into sharing a cab ride with Kay and shows her his native city, slowly winning the brunette over.

The two take dinner together and plan a next-day rendezvous, but when Rene over-sleeps, he is stuck with only a tuxedo for clothing. After sending his friend out to retrieve his regular suit proves too time-consuming, he dons a couple oriental rugs and rushes down to Kay, whom he informs he will be with shortly. In his haste to leave, now in his underwear, Rene grabs Kay’s jacket and with it two diamond clips. Kay bails on their date but Rene goes after her all the way to London on the pretense of returning the clips, which his pal has incidentally pawned to bankroll their travel. Once there, he shows off his culinary bravado while at a party and decides to take over as chef once the cook quits.

Kay is unaware this man she sort of loves is hiding out in her house the night following the party and will serve her breakfast in the morning. The party-goers are far more savvy, however, and have noticed Rene did not leave the party. The next morning as the gossip mill has churned, hordes of female friends come pouring into Kay’s bedroom wanting to know about the new cook. Kay is continually furious with Rene, but a horde of reporters on her porch blocks his exit. Complicating matters is Kay’s real boyfriend Phillip (Ralph Bellamy), who is hanging on hoping for an engagement agreement from the star.

When I first saw Lombard on the screen in Fools for Scandal, I gasped at her brown hair. I couldn’t believe such a sight, but as it turned out, the hairdo was a wig meant to disguise her identity as a famous actress. Lombard is beautiful in her expensive gowns and lavish lifestyle and lends the film plenty of humor. The story does contain an arbitrary song, “Fools for Scandal” written by Rogers and Hart. The sing-talk performance mostly by Gravet is uncomfortable in the story to say the least.

Poor Ralph Bellamy once again plays the second-fiddle boyfriend as the leading man swoops in for the kill. He is particularly pathetic in Fools for Scandal, however, as every demand he makes is conceded. He tells Kay she must make up her mind on whether to marry him tonight “or else!” What’s the “or else”, she asks. “Or else tomorrow.” When Philip declares Kay’s behavior is the last straw, he mumbles a “probably” as he storms out the door. This is not a unique role for Bellamy as he often played the less desirable lover, but he was armed with plenty of humorous dialogue that made him fun to watch, if not a bit likeable.

Finally, Gravet is entertaining as our French love interest. He is plenty amiable and can drive a laugh with the help of the ever-comedic Allen Jenkins as his roommate. In one scene he dons an antique uniform and white wig to serve a special dinner for Kay and Phillip. His obnoxious behavior makes the scene wonderfully funny while also frustrating as we empathize with Phillip.

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