The Falcon in Hollywood (1944)
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The B pics at RKO had a great family of ensemble players..........Enjoy them.
The Falcon's busy losing at a racetrack but quickly gets mixed up with 2 beautiful women (Hale and Corday) and embroiled in tracking down an apparently stolen handbag. This leads to Sunset Pictures backlots where the body of a murdered man is discovered along with a gallery of suspects. The 2 best things here are the riveting but unfortunately intermittent tour of the RKO studios and props as the Falcon and his wisecracking female taxi driver played by Veda Ann Borg investigate, and the tight intelligent scripting. I wished there'd been much more behind the scenes for an even better picture of the studio. I kept expecting Borg to exclaim "Come up to my place!" Conway wouldn't have been as backward as Sinatra! John Abbott as the Shakespeare-obsessed studio boss had many amusing scenes, and Emory Parnell effortlessly swapped from baddie in Mexico to goodie in Hollywood. And the story actually made solid sense this time without detracting from the entertainment, you can follow it from first to last, and even though the baddie's identity is pretty obvious from early on it was all logically explained. The searching of dead Ted's apartment has always stuck with me though for the bit where the Falcon and Borg are philosophising about how sad a dead man's room is and the poignant line about if he had been "worrying about tragic things like a broken shoelace" that morning.
Recommended to fans of the genre, not to others. One of my favourite Falcon's, one I've watched again and again and still hope to.
*** (out of 4)
Entertaining entry in RKO's series has The Falcon (Tom Conway) on vacation in Hollywood when a famous actor is murdered. The finger points to various people in the production so The Falcon must sort it all out. This is perhaps the best that I've seen from the series due in large part to a very good supporting cast and a nice little mystery that remains interesting throughout the film. Most of the action takes place on the backlot of a studio so we get all sorts of nice scenes, which work themselves well into the mystery. A lot of Hollywood props are used as gags or evidence and this too adds to the fun. The characters working on the film within the film are all very entertaining. We get your typical crazy German director, the playboy, a jealous wannabe star and a producer who's always going around quoting Shakespeare. Conway is also very energetic here and delivers his best performance in the role since The Falcon's Brother.
"Hollywood" is in my experience the best of the films mentioned above, with a really quite ingenious plot and some interesting characters. Of course we've all seen "The Producers" now... but the cast of Hollywood 'types' -- from the Germanic martinet director to the playboy leading man, the distrait Shakespearean Englishman, the costume diva, the exotic star with a villa and swimming-pool and the gangster's moll trying to make her big break in the movies -- still has its own charms to offer, not least in watching the film subvert the stereotypes! (There's also a nod to a famous Sherlock Holmes case in there, for the alert.)
After not thinking much of the Falcon being Out West and In Mexico during his last two films, I feared that him being in Hollywood would be another location gimmick replacing any actual substance or entertainment value. It may be because the Hollywood setting just meant that the production stayed at home and saved money on a lot of set design but this film was actually pretty good and used Hollywood well but as a backdrop to a solid mystery. It does take some work to get it started but once Lawrence gets onto the lot it livens up and keeps that pace well for the rest of the film. Unlike the last two films the mystery is actually pretty good and develops to a satisfying solution. Douglas uses the locations well (RKO itself being the main one) and the film has a great "off-set" feel to it that you don't always get with b-movies nice to see compared to the gimmicky feel to the West and Mexico and it bodes well for San Francisco (which I have not yet seen).
Conway seems a lot more relaxed and more like himself than when In Mexico. While in Mexico we had a Mexican "Goldie" character and here we have a female wise-@ss, in the shape of Borg; she is sassy and fu in a very clichéd and obvious manner but it works well. Parnell and Jenks are a poor man's Clark and Gargan but don't have that much to do. Perry Mason's Hale is good, as is Brooks. Shayne is a bit hammy but effective while series regular Rita Corday turns up yet again early on in the film.
Overall then an enjoyable entry in the series that fans will enjoy and may be slick and enjoyable enough to suit newcomers looking for an easy b-movie to watch. The location is not obtrusive and the material is good, giving the actors more to work with than in the last two films.
The Falcon In Hollywood is blessed with one undeniable asset who makes any picture better by her presence. The ever brassy and buxom Veda Ann Borg who plays a cabdriver who kind of attachs herself to Conway and while her presence is a mixed blessing in solving the crime, she's always great to hang around. Between her and Iris Adrian they cornered the market on brassy dames when a film called for one.
Two deaths both connected with the filming of a motion picture that John Abbott is producing and Konstantin Shayne is directing happen before the Falcon resolves it. Here's a hint, the plot of this may have been what inspired Mel Brooks to create one of his best films.
Tom Lawrence (Tom Conway), nicknamed "The Falcon," is in Hollywood on a vacation when he encounters movie star Lili D'Allio (Rita Corday), a believer in numerology, at a horse race. He also encounters Peggy Callahan (Barbara Hale, a bit of a surprise to see as a baddie since we're used to her role as Della Street in the 1950's Perry Mason TV series), Louie Buchanan's girlfriend; and Billie Atkins (Veda Ann Borg in a great vehicle for her), a lady cabdriver who zips Tom Lawrence around the L.A. streets (playing themselves instead of being safely represented by the RKO backlot) at near-warp speeds. She explains that she's a stunt driver in movies when she isn't working as a cabbie, and her salty performance makes her a considerably more interesting character than the more openly attractive glamour girls the cast abounds in — Hale, Corday and Jean Brooks (Richard Brooks' first wife and the star of the magnificent Val Lewton production "The Seventh Victim") as Roxanna Miles, costume designer for Magic Melody and John Miles' estranged wife, who has the hots for director Hoffman and hopes to marry him — as does D'Allio. There's a lot of running around the "Sunset" lot and the character of an old gatekeeper who becomes a red herring, but eventually Tom Lawrence figures out the whole plot: producer Dwyer was sabotaging his own production, including murdering his leading man, wounding his director with a supposedly blank-loaded gun (and deliberately exposing the day's film, ruining it so that it couldn't be developed and reveal the truth about the attempted murder of Hoffman), and eventually killing Buchanan with a trick ring from India that contains poison in its metal so that as the wearer has it on, the poison is slowly leaching into his system and ultimately knocking him off.
The film has some interesting real-life L.A. locations, including a confrontation at the Coliseum as well as an opening scene at the Hollywood Turf Club at which we meet most of the principals, but the most fascinating thing about it is the "Producers" plot element (Dwyer was sabotaging his own film so he wouldn't have to pay off the investors since either it would never be released at all or would fail) done deadly seriously. It was actually an urban legend on Broadway for decades before Brooks filmed it — indeed, Groucho Marx actually wanted to use it as the plot for "A Night at the Opera" but MGM production chief Irving Thalberg vetoed it.
On the most part, 'The Falcon in Hollywood' is very entertaining and one of Conway's better overall Falcon films. Certainly a big improvement over the previous two Falcon films 'Out West' and 'Mexico', both lesser efforts. Not everything works, Cliff Clark and Edward Gargan are missed and while Emory Powell and Frank Jenks are serviceable enough their characters don't have as much impact and their comedy not as interesting.
As a result of having so many people bumped off, it is not hard to figure out very quickly who the perpetrator is, who admittedly I suspected early on. The ending is a little rushed too to a lesser extent, and the start of the film is a tad routine and pedestrian.
However, a lot also does work. The music is lively and haunting enough, and on the most part the production values are slick and atmospheric with particularly nicely done photography. A new director is on board here and there is a very obvious and much-needed energy injected. Further advantages are a very playful script with dialogue that crackles with wit and a mostly absorbing story that is never less than bright, breezy and fun with some suspense and great twists and turns.
Conway gives one of his best performances of the series, performing with suavity and a lot of witty energy. Barbara Hale and Rita Corday are alluring and charming, while brassy and sassy Veda Ann Borg really does liven things up.
In conclusion, very entertaining if flawed and one of the better Conway Falcon films and amongst the top half of the series overall as well. 7/10 Bethany Cox
After Tom bluffs his way past the gate guardsman, he hears a shot from Stage 5. Upon entering, he finds a man's body holding a ring. Hearing a sound, he exits the set and enters the wardrobe department, where he meets its head Roxanne Miles (Jean Brooks). He questions her, but is interrupted and departs, running into the guardsman and Billie. He tells them about the body, but when they follow him, he interrupts a film being made by jumping into a fight sequence. The film's director, Alec Hoffman (Konstantin Shayne), is furious and about that time, the film's producer Martin Dwyer (John Abbott) arrives. Dwyer, a successful Broadway producer, is frustrated that his first picture in Hollywood seems to be jinxed; it's running behind schedule. He is also an eccentric, superstitious and always quoting Shakespeare. When Tom explains about the body, he learns from his double's attire that it was Ted Miles, the lead actor who's also Roxanne's husband. Since the body is missing, no one believes Tom that a crime has happened and he is escorted out.
While leaving, the Falcon runs into Peggy who pretends not to know him. Evidently, she is known on the set as Loraine Evans and has been forced on the director by an investor who wants her in the picture even though she's just learning. However, Tom does retrieve the purse, and runs into Lili. Apparently she has an appointment with Dwyer herself. After eluding the guardsman, Billie and Tom find their way into the prop room where they find the body. They exit to call Roxanne, informing her that there's been an accident involving her husband. She calls Alec and they go together to find the body, meeting Tom and Billie, who accuses them of the murder. But just then, the watchman arrives, and Billie and Tom escape once again.
Billie drives Tom to Miles's apartment where the Falcon finds a picture of Peggy as well as a investment contract for the film signed by Dwyer. He sends Billie to make a duplicate key of the apartment and soon Peggy shows up. Apparently Miles helped Peggy get away from Louie to become an actress. Suddenly a shot is fired through the window. Tom suspects Louie, and that Peggy maneuvered him in front of the window. When Louie enters the window though, it appears Peggy is upset that he's following her. He wants her to return to his club. When the police arrive, Louie exits through the window, and Peggy sneaks out. When Billie arrives with the duplicate key, the police suspect the Falcon is guilty of the murder until Billie finds a bullet hole and Tom tells them about Louie.
The police take Tom to Dwyer's office where Dwyer says that Miles was an investor in the picture but needed money to pay off a gambling debt back East. Dwyer didn't have the $50,000 so he gave him a sacred ring from India. The police feel reassured of their presumption that Louie's guilty, but take everyone to Stage 5 to question the others involved. They learn Lili had predicted the murder. They venture to the plaster making room where Tom discovers the murder weapon encased in a bust. He accuses Alec of hiding it there; he admits it and is taken away by the police. Dwyer is upset because they were scheduled for a full day of location shooting the next day.
The next morning, Lawrence is called to the set by Roxanne who explains that Alec was held by the police over night, but is innocent, and that his work on the picture is actually quite good despite all the delays. When they hear that the day's shoot has been called off, they return to Dwyer's office just before the police arrive with the murder weapon and information that the gun was registered to Dwyer. But Dwyer produces a police report indicating that he had reported it stolen two weeks ago. About that time, they learn that Hoffman is out on bail and the location shoot is back on.
The location shoot is at Lili's place, complete with swimming pool. It turns out that Lili bailed out the director Alec. During the filming of a scene, Peggy's character accidentally shoots Alec with a gun that was supposed to be just a prop with blanks. Shortly thereafter, Tom finds Louie at the house with Peggy and assumes he's captured the culprit. But Louie says he's trying to solve the mystery, knows who did it, and asks them to meet him at the Coliseum the next day. When they do, however, he shows up dying of poison, contained in the sacred ring he's now wearing.
It's pretty obvious now who did it.
In this one, the Falcon goes on vacation in Hollywood and gets embroiled in a murder in a movie studio. Veda Ann Borg is the Falcon's self-assigned partner and is one of those stereotypical, wise-cracking '40s dames. She livens things up, though. Barbara Hale, who later became the Della Street of my youth, plays an actress.
It's all pretty routine, with a mini-von Sternberg type director, a producer who keeps quoting Shakespeare and is superstitious, and a mysterious "Indian" character who may or may not be involved with a ruby ring found on the dead man. A pleasant enough way to pass the time.
It's nice to see the backlot of RKO and seeing how films are made is a rare treat. Because of this you'd think that this would be a decent addition to the Falcon series--with an unusual and engaging plot. However, no matter how hard Tom Conway tries in this film, he's saddled with one of the most annoying and pushy supporting characters from any B-detective series. Early in the film, the Falcon catches a ride with a female cabbie (something not uncommon to find during the war years). While she is pretty and could have been a welcome addition, over time she is just annoying. Why she is allowed to follow the Falcon about and annoy everyone is beyond me--Conway should have just socked her! But because he doesn't, this film ends up being a below par addition to the series.
Okay, there's also a murder mystery to weave into a plot. Something about a bullying director and another guy getting murdered; but given the reveal, I think the writers were taking their own insider shots. To me, the best part of the cast is brassy cabbie Veda Ann Borg. She's a good snappy foil for Conway without being clownish. Then too, this is WWII time (1944), so girl cabbies have taken over for guys in uniform. Thus Hollywood has to treat them respectfully. But how in the world could Perry Mason's own sweet Della Street (Barbara Hale) possibly be counted as a murder suspect. Perry would never stand for that. Neither would grouchy Lt. Tragg.
Anyway, the whodunit is pretty pedestrian, but I take that as just an excuse for the studio (RKO) tour. And, oh yes, fans of noir shouldn't look for shadowy mood—it all transpires in high-key lighting. As any good sight-seeing tour should.