Saturday, March 24, 2007

"Passing the Torch"

The Falcon's Brother - These days heroic legacies are all the rage in comic books, mostly because most superheroes began in the 1940s and the need is felt to pass the torch to new generations. Hey, after all, nobody wants to be rescued by an eighty year old, right? Especially in spandex. The Falcon's Brother represents a whole new twist on the legacy formula.

The Falcon - also known as Gay Stanhope Falcon, AKA Gay Lawrence, AKA Guy Lawrence - was a freelance adventurer who owed quite a bit to the hard-boiled detectives of his time and quite possibly a bit more to The Saint, the hero he was meant to replace in RKO's stable as a film adventure series. Created by Michael Arlen in a single short story from Town & Country Magazine in 1940, The Falcon has evolved and transformed throughout the years, changing jobs and identities and backstories like the proverbial chameleon changes colors. Things that were always present however were his suave attitude and penchant for getting into trouble.

The Falcon's Brother was the fourth in the Falcon series and the fourth for actor George Sanders in the role. Sanders had in fact also played The Saint. Part of his contract to appear in this fourth Falcon flick was that it be his last. Sanders insisted he be killed off and the writers gleefully obliged as rumor has it he wasn't the most amicable man to work with.

In a bit of inspired casting, Sanders' real life brother and actor Tom Conway came on board as the film's title character. The film begins with Gay Lawrence investigating his brother's supposed murder, getting hurt with brother Tom taking over the mystery from there. The original Falcon's death at the end opens the way for Tom Lawrence's acceptance of the name and legacy. Tom Conway would portray this new Falcon for nine more films, some of the better ones, I might add.

The Falcon's Brother, like most films in the series, is a wonderful mix of smart banter, film noir suspense, and just plain fun. These flicks are a kick to watch, even now. This one's better than most because it features both Falcons. The best line - "One Falcon around here is enough!"

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