Last month I finally caught up with the first of the series of films based on the Michael Arlen character The Falcon. I've yet to read any of Arlen's novels so my knowledge extends only as far as the few of the movies I've seen over the years. Adding to my lack of solid info is that I've seen the few I've been able to catch in a haphazard and random order that sometimes left me confused about who or what The Falcon actually might be. Luckily, Wikipedia answered my questions -
Gay Stanhope Falcon (later known in film and radio as The Falcon) is a fictional character created in 1940 by Michael Arlen. Falcon made his first appearance in Arlen's short story "Gay Falcon", which was first published in 1940 in Town & Country magazine. Falcon is characterized as a freelance adventurer and troubleshooter - a man who makes his living "keeping his mouth shut and engaging in dangerous enterprises."
The Falcon was quickly brought to the screen by RKO - 1941's The Gay Falcon redefined the character as a suave English gentleman detective with a weakness for beautiful women. The film was intended to establish a suitable replacement character for Leslie Charteris' Simon Templar (aka The Saint, hero of a popular RKO film series). To that end, George Sanders (star of The Saint series) was cast. Though Gay Falcon was the character's name in Arlen's original story, for the film series, the character was renamed Gay Laurence - thus, "The Falcon" became an alias, or nickname (à la "The Saint"). In later outings, in various media, the character had a variety of "real names," while still being known as The Falcon. Neither in films nor on radio was the nickname ever explained.
And my confusion about the films turns out to be warranted as the series starred at least three different actors in the title role. The first two played brothers and were actual brothers! Yes , George Sanders and Tom Conway were brothers with Sanders trading off the Falcon series to his sibling when he decided to seek greener (and higher budget) pastures. The odd things you learn about old mystery films!
Looks like I need buy the DVDs of the series and stop trying to catch them when they turn up on Turner Classic Movies.