I have mad love for all those quirky character actors from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Often cast as ne’er do wells and sophisticated villains, their talents were often broader than they were given credit for.
For example, even though he was best known for his sinister turns in M, The Stranger on the Third Floor, The Beast with Five Fingers and The Raven, the unforgettable Peter Lorre truly shone as a comic impresario. In particular, he excelled in the glorious MGM musical Silk Stockings, a reworking of Greta Garbo’s famed comedy Ninotchka.
Here, Lorre gamely attacked clever lyrics by Cole Porter…
…and even engaged in a dance specialty or two!
Now, one has to wonder what Boris Karloff and Vincent Price might have added to the mix here.
Ponder that…and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
Best known as Bette Davis’ sympathetic companion in the classic tearjerker Dark Victory, the supremely talented Geraldine Fitzgerald was also renowned to certain cinema goers for her humor filled appearances in such ‘80s comedies as Arthur and Easy Money. Nicely, for our purposes, she also brought a tart acidity to a duo of nasty ladies in successive films in 1940s’ gothic-noir cinema.
Not surprisingly, her Crystal Shackleford in Three Strangers (1946) was a deceptively strong counterpoint to the desperately manipulative Jerome Arbutny (the always masterful Sydney Greenstreet) and the drunkenly con minded Johnny West (the singular Peter Lorre). Able to turn her character’s sweet demeanor into a scalding sense of vengeance in a quick turn, Fitzgerald’s work here sears itself into the viewer’s brain. She proves herself to be as memorable a figure as both Greenstreet and Lorre, two of cinema’s most recognizable characters, with her flirtatiously venomous ways, taking focus as the ringleader of a financial caper that proves to be the downfall of all involved.
A year before her committed performance in Three Strangers, she probed even more controversial depths as George Sander’s controlling sister in The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry. As Lettie Quincey, a desperate spinster with a pathological devotion to her brother, Fitzgerald fearlessly dives into the incestuous overtures of her role, never backing down from the intensity of her character’s emotions. Calmly and convincingly destroying the late blooming romance of Sanders’ Harry, Fitzgerald’s deadly sense of the saccharine works an evil magic, pulling cinema lovers into her toxic web with joyous abandon.
Horror Hall of Fame:
While both these works, directed by such supreme stylists as Robert Siodmak and Jean Negulesco, feature haunting visuals and elements that contain both the supernatural and the fantastical, Fitzgerald fully submerged herself into the horror genre with appearances in 1982’s Blood Link and 1986’s Poltergeist II: The Other Side.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!