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The Falcon's Brother (1942) was the fourth film in the Falcon series produced by RKO. Like the first three films (The Gay Falcon (1941), A Date with the Falcon (1941) and The Falcon Takes Over ) it starred George Sanders as detective Gay Lawrence (AKA The Falcon). But The Falcon's Brother would be Sanders' last Falcon film. Having just sleuthed his way through another series of pictures as The Saint, Sanders was tired of playing movie detectives. He agreed to do one more Falcon flick to make way for the franchise to continue without him.
Sanders is joined in The Falcon's Brother by his real life brother Tom Conway. Conway, in a convenient bit of casting, plays Sanders' screen brother as well. The idea espoused by RKO was that by introducing Conway as Tom Lawrence, it could write Sanders out of the series and give viewers an acceptable Falcon replacement in his brother. But Sanders wasn't taking any chances on being asked back he insisted that his character be killed off in the film.
And to hear producer Maurice Geraghty tell it, Sanders was smart to question the studio's motives. "RKO was very anxious to have Sanders continue in the Falcon series," Geraghty said. "But their pleading fell on deaf ears. Then one of the bright, front-office executives got the idea of offering to co-star George's brother, Tom Conway, just to get another picture out of George. They gave George a glowing picture of how it would make a star of his brother, but actually they had no such intentions. They just wanted another picture from Sanders."
The two brothers, who were born in St. Petersburg, Russia to English parents, both got their start acting on stage and radio in England. When they decided to give Hollywood a go, they reportedly flipped a coin to see who would get to keep the name Sanders. It was actually Conway who was signed first to a studio contract after Sanders refused a meeting with MGM's Louis B. Mayer. But Sanders soon outpaced his brother's head start. By 1942, when The Falcon's Brother was made, Sanders had not only starred in five Saint movies (including The Saint Strikes Back (1939) and The Saint in London ), but he'd also received third billing in the Norma Shearer vehicle Her Cardboard Lover (1942) and had a significant role in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940).
Conway's work, however, had mainly been limited to small parts in films like Free and Easy (1941) and Grand Central Murder (1942). Certainly the difference in the brothers' career progress was reflected in their pay for The Falcon's Brother. Sanders got around $14,000 for his final turn as the Falcon. While Conway received only his contract salary he and the other stock players totaled a combined cost of $2500.
Along with their career paths, the brothers also apparently had very different personalities. Geraghty (who went on to produce eight Falcon films) recalled working with each of them:
"George had personality. He was extravagant. He loved parties on yachts. He had a certain giggle. George once said he sold his yacht because he preferred being a guest to being a host."
"Tom was different. He was one-dimensional, but full of overtones and undertones. He was self-conscious, shy. But when the series became more popular, it went to his head. He thought he was the series and the only reason for its success."
It's easy to see where Conway got this idea. To RKO's surprise, Conway's Falcon films were more popular than his brother's. And he would go on to make nine more entries his last in the series would be The Falcon's Adventure (1946). While at RKO, Conway also appeared in the Val Lewton horror classics Cat People (1942) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943). But he would be forever typecast by his Falcon role. After his run as the Falcon ended, Conway would be cast as detective Bulldog Drummond in two films, The Challenge and 13 Lead Soldiers (both 1948) and would play detectives The Saint and Sherlock Holmes on radio as well. Sanders, on the other hand, had moved on to bigger things like winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for All About Eve (1950). And though the brothers had a falling out in later years, they did team up on screen one more time. Conway once again appeared as Sanders' brother in 1956's Death of a Scoundrel.
Producer: Maurice Geraghty
Director: Stanley Logan
Screenplay: Stuart Palmer, Craig Rice, Michael Arlen (characters)
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Film Editing: Mark Robson
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: George Sanders (Gay Lawrence), Tom Conway (Tom Lawrence), Jane Randolph (Marcia Brooks), Don Barclay (Lefty), Cliff Clark (Inspector Timothy Donovan), Edward Gargan (Detective Bates).
by Stephanie Thames