The Falcon and the Co-eds

Directed by William Clemens

Nine Girls

Directed by Leigh Jason
Screening on Film
  • The Falcon and the Co-eds

    Directed by William Clemens.
    With Tom Conway, Jean Brooks, Rita Corday.
    Us, 1943, 16mm, black & white, 67 min.
    Print source: HFA

The Falcon and the Co-eds is the best of the films in the Falcon series because it has the least to do with the Falcon, instead focusing on several female characters. The touch of Val Lewton screenwriter Ardel Wray is undoubtedly decisive in giving the film its strong Lewtonesque flavor, to which the main-title music, lifted from Roy Webb’s score for I Walked With a Zombie, and the recurrence of a seashore location from that film, also contribute, as does the casting of Jean Brooks and Isabel Jewell (previously teamed in both The Leopard Man and The Seventh Victim).

The Falcon films constantly assert that woman is incomprehensible and ever apt to make mountains out of molehills; man, as incarnated by Tom Conway (who inherited the Falcon role from his brother George Sanders), is imperturbable and immaculate and trivializes everything. The film doesn’t so much overturn this structure as explore it from a female point of view. Always a mild and restrained actor, Conway disappears into the film even more than usual. After it is over, it’s hard to remember him, as if he hadn’t been in it, as if it had been a film entirely of women. – Chris Fujiwara

  • Nine Girls

    Directed by Leigh Jason.
    With Ann Harding, Evelyn Keyes, Jinx Falkenburg.
    US, 1944, 16mm, black & white, 78 min.
    Print source: HFA

The rarely acknowledged Leigh Jason was a talented and prolific director of B-musicals and comedies at RKO and Columbia before continuing with equal success in television. Nine Girls is a wonderful place to start a critical reevaluation: a brisk and sly comedy-murder-mystery set among a small-town college sorority whose most prominent member is the vituperative Paula, a spoiled socialite whose fang marks scar each of the other members. “Someday that snake in silk underwear is going to find her neck in a sling!” predicts one of the sisters, and quite correctly when Paula’s brutal murder leaves the remaining inductees, together with their matronly chaperone, stranded in the sorority’s mountain lodge wondering who among them committed the crime they all not-so-secretly desired. Buoyed by a spirited cast donning competing heart-shape beehive hairdos and including Anita Louise (briefly), Nina Foch and Evelyn Keyes, Nine Girls is laced with deliciously catty repartee adapted from the original play by Karen DeWolf and Connie Lee, regular writers for Columbia’s popular Blondie series.

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Low–Budget Hollywood Cinema 1935–1959

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