Laird Cregar only appeared in 16-motion pictures, when his life was cut short at the age of 31! This is a small look at his 16-roles including as the definitive "Jack the Ripper"!
Samuel Laird Cregar was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 28, 1913. His mother was Elizabeth Smith, and Samuel's father, Edward Matthews Cregar, was a professional cricketer on the "Gentlemen of Philadelphia" team that played internationally until the out-break of the First World War. At the age of eight, Samuel's family moved to Hampshire, England and he attended Winchester College, a boarding school founded in 1382, by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, and the Chancellor for both Edward III and Richard II.
At Winchester, Samuel was first exposed to acting, also at age eight, and he started appearing with the Stratford-upon-Avon Theatre Troupe. This would have been at the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, seen below, that burned down in 1926.
Laird Cregar was quoted in his obituary in the New York Times as saying about this period of his life:
From that time on, all I've ever wanted to do is go on stage
The boy's father passed away, and fourteen-years old Samuel and his mother returned to the United States. He was enrolled at the "Episcopal Academy", in Merion Station, Pennsylvania, an unincorporated city bordering Philadelphia. It was founded in 1785, by retired Reverend William White at Old Christ Church in Philadelphia.
After graduating, Samuel was considered too young to go to an American college at the time and he still wanted to act. Now, just Laird Cregar, he was able to convince a local amateur stock company, the Hedgerow Players, out of Germantown, that he was actor, joined the company, and performed with them and others groups through 1935.
In 1936, Samuel Laird Cregar won a scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse, in Pasadena, California, and for the next two-years he acted and studied his craft.
Returning to his New York Times obituary, Laird Cregar is quoted as saying that his teacher and follow actor Thomas Browne Henry, seen below with Joan Taylor, in stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen's, 1956, "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", gave him the worst advice for his future career in acting. Especially if you're aware of Cregar's weight, Henry's advice was:
not to lose a pound of weight, but instead to develop a thin man's personality
Returning to Pennsylvania, Laird Cregar joined the company of actors working for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's, "New Deal Federal Theatre Project". This was both a relief effort to employ actors, writers, directors, and technicians, and give free performances to out-of-work American's during the "Great Depression".
After which, the actor returned to the Pasadena Playhouse to act and continue his theatrical education. He appeared on stage in "Brother Rat", March 1939, co-starred with Victor Mature in Ben Hecht's, "To Quito and Back", April 1939, "Winged Victory" by Maxwell Anderson, July 1939, and "The Great American Family", in August 1939.
Some sources state that during his return period at the Pasadena Playhouse, Laird Cregar had filmed some screen-tests for 20th Century Fox. Adding, that the studio had him under consideration as a replacement for Tyrone Power in "The Great Commandment". A religious drama being made by independent Cathedral Films, a Christian film company. Much later, after distribution by Cathedral, the feature would be re-released by 20th Century Fox to recoup their investment.
"The Great Commandment" was released, on October 2, 1939, but only in Los Angeles churches by Cathedral Films. It starred "B" actor John Beal in the Tyrone Power role. The motion picture was then shelved by 20th Century Fox and they wouldn't release it until June 13, 1941.
However, other biographies state that Laird Cregar found himself out of work after completing the run of "The Great American Family". For the next six-months he slept in a friend's car, if this was true it would mean the actor didn't work again until after February 1940. Which is disproved by the actor's work for Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers.
On January 1, 1940, the cast for a Universal Pictures, comedy musical romance, "Oh, Johnny, How You Can Love!", included Larid Cregar in the uncredited role of a character named "Sam". On February 10, 1940, Warner Brothers released a comedy western, "Granny Gets Your Gun", and the actor had the uncredited role of a "Court Clerk".
What can be confirmed as fact, is that in 1939, Laird Cregar had read a copy of the 1937 play, "Oscar Wilde", by British brothers, Leslie and Sewell Stokes. Cregar felt the role was perfect for him and started making the rounds of producers to find one he could convince to back him in the one-actor play.
At some point, Laird Cregar found a producer, Arthur Hutchinson. He originally performed "Oscar Wilde", at the Hollywood "El Capitan Theatre", from April 22nd through May 19, 1940, and next, went to San Francisco for the month of June with it.
His performance received rave notices and even praise from John Barrymore, but also, depending upon the source of the story about "The Great Commandment". Cregar was either reconsidered by 20th Century Fox for motion pictures, or actually was given those screen-tests to see how he looked on film. Whichever story is the truth, the actor now appeared in his first major motion picture with third billing in only his third feature film.
HUDSON'S BAY premiered in Kansas City, Missouri, on December 24, 1940
"Hudson's Bay" initially started filming in August 1940, two-months after Laird Cregar finished his San Francisco run of "Oscar Wilde".
The motion picture was directed by Irving Pichel, the director on "The Great Commandment". Who had just released 1940's, "The Man I Married", a pre-Second World War, anti-Nazi film, starring Joan Bennett, Francis Lederer, and Lloyd Nolan. He would follow this picture with the comedy musical romance, 1941's, "Dance Hall", starring Carole Landis, and Cesar Romero.
I would note that Irving Pichel also appeared 75-times as an actor. Among those roles was "Apollodorus" in director Cecil B. DeMille's, 1934, "Cleopatra", "Sandor", in Universal Pictures, 1936, "Dracula's Daughter", "General Carbajal", in the Bette Davis and Paul Muni, 1939, "Juarez", and he narrated the "Woody Wood Pecker" cartoon in producer George Pal's, 1950, "Destination Moon".
The screenplay was by Lamar Trotti, who wrote Will Rodger's, 1934, "Judge Priest", and his 1935, "Steamboat Round the Bend". Trotti also wrote the screenplay for the Loretta Young and Don Ameche, 1936, "Ramona", the Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, and Don Ameche story of the great Chicago fire, 1938's, "In Old Chicago", and the Don Ameche, Loretta Young, and Henry Fonda, 1939, "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell".
Paul Muni portrayed the real life, "Pierre Esprit Radisson". Muni had just starred in an historical crime drama, 1939's, "We Are Not Alone", and would follow this motion picture with 1942's, "Commandos Strike at Dawn".
Gene Tierney portrayed the fictional "Barbara Hall". This was the actresses second motion picture and her first was 1940's, "The Return of Frank James", starring Henry Fonda. She would follow this feature with the 1941 motion picture version of author Erskine Caldwell's "Tobacco Road", directed by John Ford.
Laird Cregar portrayed the real life "Medard Chouart de Groseilliers" aka: "Gooseberry".
John Sutton portrayed the fictional, "Lord Edward Crewe". Sutton had just appeared in actor Sydney Toler's, "Charlie Chan" mystery, 1940's, "Murder Over New York", and would follow this picture with the 1941, Jane Withers comedy, "A Very Young Lady".
Above, Paul Muni and John Sutton.
Virginia Field portrayed the real life, "Eleanor 'Nell' Gwyn". Field had just appeared in the Maureen O'Hara, Louis Hayward, and Lucille Ball, 1940, "Dance, Girl, Dance", and would follow this movie with the sports romance, 1941's, "Knockout", co-starring with Arthur Kennedy.
Vincent Price portrayed the real life, "King Charles II". Price had just portrayed "Joseph Smith" in director Henry Hathaway's, 1940, "Brigham Young", and followed this feature with 1943's, "Song of Bernadette", starring Jennifer Jones.
Nigel Bruce portrayed the real life, "Prince Rupert". Character actor Bruce had just appeared with Edward G. Robinson in the biography of the founding of the Reuters news organization, 1940, "A Dispatch from Reuters", and followed this picture with the 1941, comedy, "Play Girl".
Above, Nigel Bruce, Vincent Price, and Paul Muni.
Basically, French trapper "Pierre Esprit Radisson" and his friend "Gooseberry" want to open a trading post in the Hudson Bay region of northeastern Canada. They go to the English governor at Albany for funding, but the governor believes the two are rogues and has them jailed. Where they meet jailed English Lord, "Edward Crewe", manage to get him and themselves out of jail.
According to the screenplay, the fictional "Lord Crewe", was banished from England by "King Charles II" as a means of acquiring his land to rebuild London after the fire of 1666.
Financed by "King Charles II" the three head for Canada, but they have picked-up "Barbara's" brother, "Gerald Hall", portrayed by Morton Lowry, and he will become trouble. The first trading post is established at "Fort Charles", but "Gerald" complains about the hard work and he is left to run the trading post and the others push on.
The three with their furs, return to England, but the King having heard of "Pierre Radisson's" execution of "Gerald Hall", has him arrested. "King Charles II" is forced to reconsider his action, when he learns that "Orimha" was instructed to have the tribes stop trading with the English unless "Pierre" returns to Hudson Bay.
I know the picture was shortened for its General Audience release to two-hours-and-five-minutes, but how long the original uncut film ran, I could not locate.
Laird Cregar had ninth-billing portraying "Natalio Curro". He broke out with a case of measles and the production stopped filming and went into quarantine until the doctors were sure the measles was over.
For there is too little drama, too little blood and sand, in it. Instead the story constantly bogs down in the most atrocious romantic cliches... (There are) glimpses of a stunning romantic melodrama with somber overtones. But most of the essential cruelty of the theme is lost in pretty colors and rhetorical speeches...The better performances come in the lesser roles—Laird Cregar as an effeminate aficionado, J. Carrol Naish as a broken matador, John Carradine as a grumbling member of the quadrilla. For one enthralling moment Vincente Gomez, the musician, appears on the screen. If the film had only caught the barbaric pulse of Gomez's incomparable fingers at the guitar, there would be good cause for cheers. Instead it has been content for the most part to posture beautifully..
CHARLEY'S AUNT premiered in Los Angeles on July 31, 1941
This farce was perfect for Jack Benny, portraying "Lord Fancourt 'Babs' Babberly", who is talked into impersonating the aunt from Brazil, of "Charley Wycham", portrayed by Richard Haydn, and "Jack", his two Oxford roommates.
I WAKE UP SCREAMING was originally released October 31, 1941 under the title HOT SPOT
When the film began production on July 21, 1941, the title was "I Wake Up Screaming". When it was originally released in October 1941, the title had been changed to "Hot Spot", but when it was re-released, in New York City, the title was back to "I Wake Up Screaming".
Under either title is this one very good film-noir from director H. Bruce Humberston. Humberston was known for directing series crime dramas with both fictional character "Charlie Chan" and "Philo Vance". However, immediately before this picture, he directed 1941's, "Sun Valley Serenade", a very popular musical starring Olympic Ice-Skating Champion, Sonja Henie, "B" leading man John Payne, and Glenn Miller and his Orchestra.
The actual screenplay was written by Dwight Taylor, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodger's, 1935, "Top Hat", and their 1936, "Follow the Fleet".
Betty Grable portrayed "Jill Lynn". She had just co-starred with Tyrone Power and John Sutton in 1941's, "A Yank in the RAF", and followed this feature with the comedy musical romance 1942's, "Song of the Islands", co-starring with Victor Mature and comedian Jack Oakie.
Below, Laird Cregor's "Detective Ed Cornell", on the left, is drilling Betty Grable's "Jill Lynn" over her sister's murder.
In his look back review of "I Wake Up Screaming", December 4, 2004, in "Ozus ' World Movie Reviews", Dennis Schwartz writes:
Dwight Taylor bases his screenplay on the book by pulp writer Steve Fisher. In a jarring move that works in an odd way, 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' is the soundtrack that can be heard throughout. This early film noir, shot in a naturalistic style, showed how dark photography can increase a brooding mood and make the film more tense...The conclusion is filled with plot twists and surprise character revelations, as the marvelously sinister performance by Laird Cregar as the sicko detective dominates the screen.
Next was a patriotic Second World War motion picture.
JOAN OF PARIS premiered on January 23, 1942 in New York City
"New York Times" film critic Bosley Crowther, on January 28, 1942, wrote:
...here is a tale of personal valor and selfless sacrifice which is told so simply and eloquently, and is so beautifully played that it might be a true re-enactment of a gallant episode. At least, it cheers the heart and stirs the pulse to think that it might be. "Joan of Paris' is a rigidly exciting and tenderly moving film. It will do as a tribute to high courage until the lamps of Paris burn once more.
The motion picture was filmed from September through October, 1941, less than two-month before "Pearl Harbor", and so, the motion picture tells the story of five RAF pilots shot down over German-Occupied France and not American flyers as later films would use.
The picture was directed by a favorite of mine, Robert Stevenson, if you do not recognize his name. I am sure you would recognize the small selection of his later work. Stevenson directed both Walt Disney's 1957 "Johnny Tremain" and "Old Yeller", and three episodes of Disney's television series "Zorro" in 1958. Along with both Walt's, 1959, "Darby O'Gill and the Little People", and Walt's version of author Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped", the original 1961 "The Absent-Minded Professor", 1962's Jules Verne's "In Search of the Castaways", 1963's, "Son of Flubber", and in 1964, "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones", and his "Academy Award" nominated "Mary Poppins".
The story came from two writers, the first was, Jacques Thery. Who had left France prior to the start of the Second World War, made one motion picture in the United Kingdom, and came to the United States and co-wrote with Billy Wilder, the 1940, Mary Martin, Bing Crosby, and Basil Rathbone musical comedy, "Rhythm on the River".
The second story writer was Georges Kessel, this was the first of only five motion pictures he worked upon.
The actual screenplay was written by two other writers, the first being Charles Bennett. Who had written for director Alfred Hitchcock, 1934, "The Man Who Knew Too Much", 1935's, "The 39 Steps", both 1936's, "Secret Agent", and "Sabotage", and 1940's, "Foreign Correspondent".
The second writer was Ellis St. Joseph, who only wrote one radio program, 1938's, "Passenger to Bali", for Orson Welles' "Mercury Theatre on the Air".
Michele Morgan portrayed "Joan". Morgan had been acting in French films since she was 16-years-old, but fled France as Hitler's troops moved into country. This was her first English language film since leaving.
Paul Henreid portrayed "Paul Lavallier". Henreid followed this feature film co-starring with Bette Davis in 1942's, "Now Voyager", and portraying, "Victor Lazzo", in 1942's, "Casablanca". The picture Jack L. Warner, the head of Warner Brothers, thought was a waste of the studio's money to make.
Thomas Mitchell portrayed "Father Antoine". Mitchell had just appeared in 1941's, "Out of the Fog", starring Ida Lupino and John Garfield. He would follow this film with 1942's, "Song of the Islands", starring Betty Grable and Victor Mature.
Laird Cregar portrayed "Her Funk".
May Robson portrayed "Mademoiselle Rosay". This was the actresses last on-screen appearance and her sixty-fifth motion picture. She began her film career in 1908 and passed away, at 84, the following October.
The plot was the staple of many American war films made during the Second World War, but as I mentioned, the United States had yet to become officially involved. Five RAF flyers are attempting to avoid the German's and make it back to England from France.
In 1941 France, the five downed flyers make their way to Paris, there they meet "Father Antoine", who agrees to hide them in his chapel. He gives their leader, "Paul Lavallier" instructions on how to contact the underground and "Lavallier" meets "Joan", who he falls in love with. Meanwhile, German Gestapo Agent "Herr Funk" is after them, but interviews "Paul" and appears to believe his story, but is laying a trap for all five men. "Joan" meets with "Mademoiselle Rosay", who will arrange for a seaplane to fly the men back to England. In the end "Joan of Paris", think "Joan of Arc", delays "Funk" and his men so the others can escape and is executed.
Laird Cregar's next motion picture had two major 20th Century Fox stars, but ended up losing money for the studio.
RINGS ON HER FINGERS released March 20, 1942
This was director Rouben Mamoulian's first motion picture since 1941's, "Blood and Sand", and was a comedy.
Henry Fonda portrayed "John Wheeler", Gene Tierney portrayed "Susan Miller", Laird Cregar portrayed "Uncle Warren", and Spring Byington portrayed "Mrs. Maybelle Worthington".
Con-artists "Mrs. Maybelle Worthington" and "Uncle Warren" spot girdle sales lady "Susan", who wants to see how the rich live, as the perfect addition to their con's of wealthy men. Unknowingly, "Susan" joins them as "Mrs. Worthington's" daughter in their con's. However, when they spot "John Wheeler" about to purchase a yacht for cash, they make the mistake of thinking he's a millionaire. "John" is only an accountant who has saved all the money from his work for his dream yacht. In the end "Susan" and "John" fall in love and her conning days are over.
This motion picture was based upon author Graham Greene's, 1936, "A Gun for Sale". His other novels include 1943's, "Ministry of Fear", 1949's, "The Third Man", 1955's, "The Quiet American", and 1958's, "Our Man in Havana", all were turned into motion pictures.
The screenplay came from two writers, the first was Albert Maltz, 1943's, "Destination Tokyo", 1948's, "The Naked City", and in 1950, Malta fronted for "Black Listed" writer, Michael Blankfort, on the James Stewart and Jeff Chandler, Western, "Broken Arrow".
The second writer was W.R. Burnett, he was primarily a novelist and he wrote the novel "Little Caesar" that became the break through 1931 movie for Edward G. Robinson. He also wrote the novels that 1940's, "Dark Command", and 1941's, 'High Sierra" were based upon.
"Ellen" and "Gates" board a train for Los Angeles followed by "Raven", who sits down in the chair next to "Ellen". The following morning, walking through the train, "Gates" spots the sleeping "Raven" with his head on the sleeping "Ellen".
Malvin Wald had come-up with the story about the re-established West Point and the first class there. This was only Wald's second story idea for a motion picture.
The first problem came with turning Wald's idea into a screenplay. Initially the screenplay, "School for Soldiers", was written by Richard Maibaum, 1937's, "They Gave Him a Gun", that starred Spencer Tracy, Gladys George, and Franchot Tone, 1937's, "The Bad Man of Brimstone", that starred Wallace Beery, Virginia Bruce, and Dennis O'Keefe, 1938's, "Stablemates", starring Wallace Beery, and Mickey Rooney, and 1940's, "20 Mule Team", starring Wallace Beery, Leo Carrillo, and Margorie Rambeau.
Next, the screenplay was given to Talbot Jennings to rewrite. Jennings had written the Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, 1935, "Mutiny on the Bounty", 1937's, "The Good Earth", starring Paul Muni and Louise Rainer, and 1940's, "Northwest Passage", starring Spencer Tracy, and Robert Young.
Still not satisfied with the screenplay, George Seaton, was hired to rewrite some of the dialogue. Seaton had written the original screenplay for the Marx Brothers, 1935, "A Night at the Opera", the screenplay for the brothers, 1935, "A Day at the Races", and the screenplay for Jack Benny's, 1941, "Charley's Aunt".
Then Darryl F. Zanuck was asked to go over the screenplay, without credit, and make any corrections he thought needed.
Finally, not satisfied with the screenplay, director Henry Hathaway asked playwright and screenplay writer Ben Hecht, 1932's, "Scarface", 1934's, "Viva Villa", and 1939's, "Wuthering Heights", to completely, without credit, rewrite the entire screenplay.
Which brings me to the casting, the role of "Joe Dawson". The role was originally written for Tyrone Power, but he wasn't available as he had enlisted in the Marine Corps, next it was given to Henry Fonda, but his schedule was full and he was enlisting in the Navy. The studio decided to give the role to Randolph Scott, but Scott was at Universal Pictures filming "The Spoilers", co-starring with Marlene Dietrich, and John Wayne. John Payne was given the role and was ready to start filming, but he became ill and the role went to George Montgomery. Who had just appeared opposite Ginger Rodgers in 1942's, "Roxie Hart".
"Cadet Dawson" is a backwoodsman and sees things from that perspective. While, "Cadet Shelton" is an aristocrat, believes everything is owed him, because of his status and his fiancée is "Carolyn". Of course, the two become rivals for her affections.
The motion picture was directed by Henry King. He had already directed Tyrone Power in 1936's, "Lloyd's of London", 1938's, "In Old Chicago", 1938's, "Alexander's Ragtime Band", 1939's, "Jesse James", and 1941's, "A Yank in the RAF".
Ben Hecht co-wrote the screenplay based upon another of author Rafael Sabanti's, "Captain Blood", novels. Hecht had just written the screenplay for the all-star, multi-story, 1942's, "Tales of Manhattan", and would follow this feature with 1942's, "China Girl". In 1954, Hecht took Homer's "The Odyssey" and wrote the screenplay for Italian director Mario Camarini's, "Ulysses", starring American actor Kirk Douglas.
The other co-writer was Seton I. Miller, Errol Flynn's, 1938, "The Adventures of Robin Hood", and Flynn's, 1940, "The Sea Hawk".
Tyrone Power portrayed "Jamie Waring". Power had just co-starred with Joan Fontaine in 1942's, "This Above All", and followed this motion picture billed as Tyrone Power U.S.M.C.R., in 1943's, "Crash Dive".
Maureen O'Hara portrayed "Lady Margaret Denby". She had just been in 1942's, "Ten Gentlemen from West Point", and would follow this picture with 1943's, "Immortal Sergeant", co-starring with Henry Fonda.
John Payne portrayed "Johnny Cornell", the reworked Warner Baxter role of "Kerry Bolton".
Laird Cregor portrays a character named "Sam Weaver".
For his next feature film, Laird Cregar had a devilishly good role.
Back in 1934, Hungarian-American playwright, Ladislaus Bus-Fekete as Lazlo Bus-Fekete wrote the play "Szuletesnap (Birthday)". The screenplay is based upon that work, but the author was now Leslie Bush-Fekete.
The screenplay was written by Samson Raphaelson, 1940's, "The Shop Around the Corner", and director Alfred Hitchcock's, 1940, "Suspicion", starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.
Gene Tierney portrayed "Martha Strabel Van Cleve". She had just starred in 1942's, "China Girl", and followed this picture with the classic film-noir mystery, 1944's, "Laura", co-starring with Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb, directed by Otto Preminger.
Don Ameche portrayed "Henry Van Cleve". Ameche was just in director Gregory Ratoff's comedy, 1943, "Something to Shout About" and followed this feature with a drama about parents receiving a telegram from the Navy about their son being killed in action, 1943's, "Happy Land".
Laird Cregar portrayed "His Excellency" in a very small, but important role. He is only seen at the film's beginning and at its end.
The elderly "Henry Van Cleve" enters an opulent reception room and meets "His Excellency". As their conversation begins, the audience realizes that "His Excellency" is actually "The Devil" and "Henry" believes his life has brought him to the entrance of hell to serve for the bad things he has done.
HOLY MATRIMONY released on August 27, 1943
This is a very refined comedy based upon a 1908 comedy novel entitled "Buried Alive: A Tale of These Days", by British author Arnold Bennett. Screenplay writer, Nunnally Johnson, director John Ford's 1940 version of author John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath", was nominated for the "Academy Award" for his screenplay, but lost to "Casablanca".
Monty Woolley portrayed painter "Priam Farll". "Farll" is a famous English painter who has been living in seclusion for the last 25-years and learns that he is to be knighted. He returns to London with his valet, "Henry 'Harry' Leek", portrayed by Whit Bissell. "Leek" is ill and dies and "Farll" assumes his identity to maintain his seclusion from publicity.
Gracie Fields portrayed "Alice Chalice", who had been corresponding with "Henry" and applied to the marriage bureau for a license for the two. She has only a photograph of her future husband, whom she never had seen, and it has "Priam Farll" in it. She assumes, and "Farll" doesn't say otherwise, that he is "Henry" and he falls in love with "Alice" and they're married.
Laird Cregar portrayed "Clive Oxford", "Farill's" art dealer while he was "alive". "Farill" is still keeping his identity a secret with "Alice", but he still paints. "Oxford" recognizes the work and starts buying up "Henry Leek's" paintings at a cheap price to make a large profit when his real identity is discovered.
The screenplay was written by playwright, Alfred Edgar writing as Barre Lyndon. He had just written director Henry Hathaway's, 1941, "Sundown", and followed this picture by writing a play that was turned into the film-noir science fiction thriller, 1945's, "The Man in Half Moon Street". In 1953, producer George Pal filmed Lyndon's screenplay for author H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds".
Why should the fog in “The Lodger,” one of many films about Jack the Ripper, stand out? The black-and-white cinematography of Lucien Ballard sharply divides the buildings from the fog, lending thickness to the haze. The soupy fog’s ceaseless rolling transforms into a pulsating creature that whispers death. When the first murder occurs off-screen, fog creeps around a close up of a woman’s limp arm and hair next to a flowing sewer. The shot is so unflashy, yet twistedly beautiful in its simplicity. The same goes for “The Lodger”: it may be skimpy on narrative and psychological depth, but John Brahm’s clear direction and the visuals deliver icky-ness, if not mystery.
A very polite man, but he asks "Mrs. Bointing" to remove the pictures of the "Dancehall Girls" on the walls and she complies. He pulls our two pictures of two men, one is a young "Slade", the other his brother.
The second is the attraction "Kitty" starts to feel to the mysterious "Mr. Slade".
If The Lodger was designed to chill the spine—as indeed it must have been, considering all the mayhem Mr. Cregar is called upon to commit as the mysterious, psychopathic pathologist of the title—then something is wrong with the picture. But, if it was intended as a sly travesty on the melodramatic technique of ponderously piling suspicion upon suspicion (and wrapping the whole in a cloak of brooding photographic effects), then The Lodger is eminently successful.
The film's climax comes when "Mr. Slade" goes to watch "Kitty" perform and then goes backstage to her dressing room with the intent of making her his next victim,
"Inspector Warick" and his men appear and "Mr. Slade" leaves, being chased by the police, not wanting to be taken, he jumps into the Thames and disappears.
The average weight of Laird Cregar was around 300 pounds and while filming "The Lodger", the actor went on a crash diet, supplemented by prescribed amphetamines, still on this diet, the actor filmed his next motion picture and the change in his weight is obvious.
On December 9, 1944, Laird Cregar suffered a severe heart attack and passed away. The eulogy at his funeral was given by his best friend actor Vincent Price.
HANGOVER SQUARE premiered on February 7, 1945 in New York City
Once again the motion picture was directed by John Brahm with the screenplay by Barre Lydon.
The screenplay was based upon the 1941 novel, "Hangover Square", by playwright and novelist Patrick Hamilton. Who wrote the 1929 play, "Rope", turned into the 1948, Alfred Hitchcock motion picture, and the 1938 play "Angel Street", turned into both the 1940 and 1944 motion pictures "Gaslight". This novel was a favorite of Laird Cregar and he requested 20th Century Fox to film it for him and they agreed.
Laird Cregar, sadly had reached first billing portraying "George Harvey Bone" and would not know his recognition.
Linda Darnell portrayed "Netta Longdon". Darnell had just co-starred with Benny Goodman and His Band, in 1944's, "Sweet and Low-Down". She followed this motion picture with 1945's, "The Great John L.", co-starring Barbara Britton and Greg McClure.
George Sanders portrayed "Dr. Allan Middleton". Sanders had just co-starred with Darnell in the crime film-noir, 1944's, "Summer Storm". Sanders would follow this film with author Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray", co-starring Hurd Hatfield and Donna Reed.
The setting is Edwardian England in the year 1903, and the screenplay opens as a Scottish shop owner is stabbed to death by distinguished composer, "George Harvey Bone". Who sets the shop on fire and stumbles onto the street in a stupor. He doesn't make it back to his basement flat on "Hangover Square" until the following night, has no memory of the previous day, and finds his very concerned girlfriend, "Barbara Chapman", played by "Faye Marlowe", and her father, "Sir Henry Chapman", played by Alan Napier. "George Harvey Bone" has just finished a grand concerto.
The newspapers are full of stories about the murder and "George" goes to "Dr. Allan Middleton", who works with Scotland Yard, and tells him that when he's stressed, or overworked he suffers periods of amnesia brought on from discordant musical sounds. He wonders if he may have been the murder?
"Dr. Allan Middleton" insists for his own safety, "George" call off his concerto performance, because the doctor now believes music brings on the episodes and the composers personality changes. "George" locks the doctor in a closet and leaves to perform.
"Middleton's" banging on the closet door brings a workman who releases him. With police, "Allan" shows up at the performance and this causes "George" to go into one of his amnesia episodes. Returning to his piano, "George" knocks over an oil lamp starting a fire. The other musicians and the audience leave for their safety as "George" continues to play, but "Barbara" tries to get him to leave. "Allan" takes her away from the burning building telling her:
it's better this way!
A February 7, 1945 review of the motion picture in "Variety" states:
Hangover Square is eerie murder melodrama of the London gaslight era—typical of Patrick Hamilton yarns, of which this is another. And it doesn't make any pretense at mystery. The madman-murderer is known from the first reel...Production is grade A, and so is the direction by John Brahm, with particular bows to the music score by Bernard Herrmann.
Post a Comment