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“Always ready with a hand for oppressed men…and an eye for repressed women…”

“Always ready with a hand for oppressed men…and an eye for repressed women…”

Posted by Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. on Apr 10th 2023

On this date in 1943, the literary sleuth created by Drexel Drake made his radio debut on the Blue Network with a series that would entertain listeners until November 29, 1954: The Adventures of the Falcon. No one ever really explained to the radio audience’s satisfaction why a shamus named Michael Waring adopted the handle of “Falcon”…but the program, a sprightly mystery with light moments of comedy and romance, was so entertaining that no one protested too loudly, either.

Drake’s creation was first introduced to the world in a 1936 novel titled The Falcon’s Prey. According to one researcher, the character (who also went by the name Malcolm J. Wingate) adopted the “Falcon” nickname while on a trip from Cambridge to London. The detective went on to appear in two additional novels, The Falcon Cuts In (1937) and The Falcon Meets a Lady (1938) and made his last print appearance in a short story for The American Magazine in November of 1938 called “The Falcon Strikes.”

Further complicating the history of this character’s origin, author Michael Arlen also created a “Falcon” character in a short story for Town & Country magazine in 1940: “Gay Falcon.” That bird (sorry) became the focus of a 1941 RKO film entitled The Gay Falcon, which the studio fashioned for George Sanders. This explains the confusion as to why, in the movies, The Falcon was known as Gay Lawrence (even though his handle in the Arlen short story was Gay Stanhope Falcon). This may not seem important…except that it was the RKO picture series that prompted the show’s adaptation for radio. (Original Falcon author Drake received all the credit in the aural version.)

Of course, by the time the radio show premiered in April of 1943, he was Michael Waring. This version of the character was a cut above your average aural gumshoe. He possessed a keen eye for detail that kept him from having to use his fists most of the time, and he brandished a rapier-like sarcasm toward the fools he did not suffer gladly (these were often representatives of the law). Some episodes featured him in the company of a gal Friday who answered to Nancy (played by Joan Alexander). His nemeses during the show’s decade-long run included Sergeant Johnny Gleason (Mandel Kramer) and Sergeant Corbett (Ken Lynch). The Falcon was broadcast from New York for practically its entire run, and Big Apple radio thespians like Joan Banks, Robert Dryden, Elspeth Eric, Ethel Everett, John Gibson and Everett Sloane were often heard in supporting roles.

Barry Kroger played Waring in The Falcon‘s Blue Network run in 1943 (which ended in December). When the show moved to Mutual in July of 1945, James Meighan inherited the role for two years before handing it off to Les Tremayne. Les Damon was emoting as the sleuth by May of 1950 (the show had, by that time, moved back to NBC). And, before the series closed its case file permanently in 1954, George Petrie was wearing Michael Wearing—er, Waring’s shoes. The series was sustained throughout most of its run, but from 1945 to 1947 The Adventures of the Falcon had its bills paid by its best remembered sponsor: Gem blades and razors. A classic commercial for the product featured the tolling of a clock while an announcer warned men to “Avoidfiveo’clockshadow…” A loud chorus would then chime in: “Use Gem Blades! Use Gem Blades! Use Gem Blades!”

The independent film studio Film Classics hoped to cash in on the popularity of the radio series and released three films in 1948. John Calvert starred as Michael Waring (though his last name is “Watling” in the first two releases) in: Devil’s Cargo (1948), Appointment with Murder (1948) and Search for Danger (1949). Then in 1955, silver screen tough guy Charles McGraw brought Waring to the boob tube in a syndicated TV series (comprised of thirty-nine episodes), The Adventures of the Falcon—except there was none of that namby-pamby “Michael” stuff…he went by “Mike.”

Our advice to you is stick with the radio gumshoe, although if you’re curious to read a more extensive examination of The Falcon’s life and times, Radio Spirits highly recommends Who is The Falcon? A History of the Detective’s Adventures in Print, Movies, Radio and Television by author Ian Dickerson. A sample of The Adventures of the Falcon (“The Case of the Neighbor’s Nightmare”) can be found in the Radio Spirits gumshoe compendium Great Radio Private Eyes and we’ve got full Falcon collections in Shakedown (with liner notes from yours truly!) and The Falcon Solves the Case.

In our digital downloads store, there’s a Yuletide broadcast of The Adventures of the Falcon (“Unwelcome Christmas Present”) on Christmas Radio Classics. In addition, we have more collections ready for download in Count Me Out Tonight, Angel (featuring a rare 1945 broadcast starring James Meighan as the Falcon) and The Falcon: Private Eye to Super Spy, which chronicles the transition made by Michael Waring from shamus to espionage agent, adopting a new career flushing out Communist spies and infiltrators who would rend the very fabric of American society! (Top that, Johnny Dollar!)