Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, August 10, 2017


To understand the convoluted history of the The Falcon, one must go back to Leslie Charteris' famous character The Saint, that daring rogue and adventurer who first appeared on the printed page in 1928.  In 1938, The Saint made the leap to films with Louis Hayward playing the character; one year later Haywood was replaced by George Sanders for the second film.  The series with Sanders proved to be a great success, but the studio was having difficulties with Charteris, who was apparently upset with some of the liberties RKO had taken with the character.  Soon, Charteris and his character parted ways with the studio and RKO set about finding a replacement character for a new "Saint-like" series.  They settled on Gay Stanhope Falcon, the protagonist of a single story, "Gay Falcon," published by Michael Arlen in 1940.  The studio bought the rights to the story and the character and went on their merry way.

Like the Saint, The Falcon was an adventurer who gets caught up in murder.  To play The Falcon, the studio hire George Sanders, the actor who had played The Saint.  Gay Stanhope Falcon's name was changed to Gay Lawrence and -- as far as I can tell -- no reference was ever given as to why the character was nicknamed The Falcon.  (Need I mention that this was back in the days when the name Gay had only heterosexual overtones?)  Charteris, of course, fumed and threatened to sue.  (He also took the time to pan the new series in a "meta" bit in one of his novels.)  The Falcon movie series eventually ran to sixteen films, and when Sanders dropped out of the role his real-life brother Tom Conroy took over as Gay Lawrence's brother Tom Lawrence.

But there was another, earlier, literary Falcon -- Mike Waring, nicknamed "The Falcon," who first saw print in 1936's The Falcon's Prey by "Drexel Drake" (Charles H. Huff).  Waring appeared in two further novels and a short story.  To confused matters, this Falcon appeared in a short series of movies and, later, a short-lived television series starring Charles McGraw.  (One can assume that RKO bought the right's to Arlen's character rather than Drake's character because they did not want another repeat of an author complaining about the treatment of his series character.)

Anyway, when the Blue Network premiered The Falcon on April 10, 1943, it was the Drexel Drake character who was featured.  The similarity between the two Falcons (and with The Saint) was not coincidental; most listeners apparently felt RKO film character and the radio character  were the same guy but with a name change.  (A view that the radio show did nothing to dispel.)  The Adventure of the Falcon ran until November 27, 1954, moving from the Blue Network, to NBC, to Mutual.  Waring was at times an adventurer, a private eye, an insurance investigator, and an Army intelligence officer.  In both films series and in the radio series, The Falcon was basically whoever the writers and producers wanted him to be.  His job description may change but his character -- the wily adventurer with a dash of derring-do and a dab of humor -- does not:  a Saint clone.

"The Case of the Neighbor's Nightmare" was aired on February 4, 1951.  Michael Waring -- played by Les Damon, the fourth actor to take the radio role -- meets up with a man who thinks he's a lady killer and Waring must make sure he doesn't become one.  Brought to you by Kraft Foods.



  1. Did not know much about the Falcon outside a sort of general reference

  2. Think you might find it was Mike Waring, not Paul.

    I'd have to recommend you read this book:

    But then I would, since I wrote it!

    1. Thanks for the correction. I don't know where my mind was. Fixed now (the post, not my mind).

      I'll be on the lookout for your book, Ian.