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

Mr. Lucky

Gasser

Mr. Lucky (1943)

    Cary Grant generally played the same sort of man in all his movies: a confident gentleman who let the women chase after him. Although it took a while for the studios to figure out the part Grant would continuously play –Paramount had him playing whatever role was handy at the start of his career– it is that persona that we all have come to know him as.

     In Mr. Lucky, Grant is cast in a seedier part but brings to it all the charm we would expect. He plays Joe Bascopolous, sort of. This gambler takes the name of the deceased Greek Bascopolous when he is issued a draft notice just ahead of a big gambling opportunity for he and his boat. Bascopolous’ draft card indicates he is unfit for service, so Joe and Zepp (Paul Stewart) flip for the freedom from war and the boat with it.

     Joe next runs into Laraine Day‘s Dorothy, who is trying to sell tickets to a charity ball to support war relief. He declines to buy the tickets but visits the charity’s headquarters where he offers to run a gambling set up at the ball, which could easily raise the $100,000 the all-woman non-profit group aims to achieve. Both Dorothy and Captain Steadman (Gladys Cooper) resist the offer, but looking to win over the group, Joe hangs around. He ends up using his brute to get a truckful of supplies released to the war relief group ahead of payment and through his gambling tricks secures a load of blankets for free. The man also takes up knitting and soon all the men around him are doing the same.

     Dorothy and the captain soon agree to the gambling at their ball, all of the proceeds from which Joe plans to abscond with. During his devilish deeds, however, he falls in love with Dorothy. This predictably leads him to back off the scam, but Zepp, who never went to war, has other intentions.

     I struggled with whether to give Mr. Lucky a higher rating because I found it both amusing and unique because of Grant’s atypical part. On the whole, it really is nothing too special, but for the Grant fan it is probably worth exploring. The most interesting attempt Grant makes to look like a good-for-nothing is curling his upper lip under to create a kind of tough-man sneer-smile. He does it naturally, but it makes him sort of funny looking, so one finds it hard to take him seriously.

     Day is amusing and beautiful and makes a good match for Grant. The latter teaches the woman a variety of rhyming slang from Australia that is used throughout the picture. For instance, “briny marlin” means “my darling”, “tit for tat”  is “hat”, “twist and twirl” is “girl”, and “trouble and strife” is “wife”. The slang becomes a sort of secret language for the two as Dorothy uses it to save Joe from capture by the police.

     Mr. Lucky is certainly marked by plenty of light moments, but it starts out on a very dark note and as the seedy gamblers come and go in the scene, the tone of the picture fluctuates.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 507 other followers

%d bloggers like this: