STRANGE THRESHOLD OR BEHIND THE DOOR FROM PETER LORRE

Rick’s Journal  —  MY FILM CAREER

When I was a student at UCLA the perks included not just the regular experience of hearing Colin Young and Hugh Gray and Arthur Ripley as regular classroom instructors.  They were always bringing outstanding  —  nay!  THRILLING  —  guest speakers for us.

I was late for class the day Mr. Ripley brought Peter Lorre with him.  I could see through the open door that not a seat was left.  I was able to stand in such a way that our guest could not see me but I could see him.  Even from outside the room, though, his presence was still vivid.  From where I crouched, I seldom distinguished any of his words; but I could hear the buzzing nasal hum of an internationally recognizable voice.

The Speaker

Right there, before my squinting eyes, stood M, a redder-faced, heavier M, heavy but not sloppy, neat in an expensive gray suit.  I was looking at Ugarte, at Joel Cairo, at Julius O’Hara.

In those good and glamorous days at UCLA, Peter Lorre was the only speaker I had to hear from such an uncomfortable distance.  I was close to all the others, usually in intimate classroom settings  —  small classrooms.  Billy Wilder  —  when only three of us showed (!), and we had him all to ourselves; and he graciously gave us an hour and a half.  Bette Davis  —  in a small classroom.

Dalio in CASABLANCA (photo courtesy of reader dmg)

 

I can’t remember why Marcel Dalio was in town when prof Hugh Gray brought him to class to talk with us.  And blithering, often hungover youth that I was, I cannot now report much of what he said to us.  He was candid, unsentimental and quintessentially French relating anecdotes from the sets of Casablanca but especially The Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion.

Coming Soon:  George Seaton.  Billy Wilder.  Jean Renoir.  And Bette Davis:  dynamite in a small classroom.

Coming Soon:  Farrell, Kidman and Dunst in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

Note:  Consult imdb for Arthur Ripley, Hugh Gray and Colin Young.

NEXT FRIDAY POST July 28

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

DOSTOYEVSKY IN 1935

Rick’s Journal (My Film Career)

A FILM FROM OUR PAST, viewed on Turner Classic Movies

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Josef von Sternberg
1935

Given its director, this is visually a surprisingly uninteresting film, and a very talky one.  A modernization and simplification of Dostoyevsky’s tale, it lacks key elements of the original and offers nothing new except a great expansion of the role of the pawnbroker in the interest of the celebrated Mrs. Patrick Campbell who takes the part.

Though it is in English there is a European feel to this film (where IS it taking place, by the way?).   But no one has ever talked like these characters (faithful to Dostoyevsky there!); but the dull, bleak sets help make the unreal dialogue acceptable.  Marian Marsh as Sonya is played (and written and photographed) as a Hollywood Sonya.  But the script retains her passion for the New Testament and for the resurrection and Dostoyevsky’s most lovable character shines through.

The script  does well with the cat and mouse game played by the police inspector and Raskolnikov.  Edward Arnold is superb in the police role.  The major problem here is Peter Lorre, his playing as well as the writing of his character.  He is supposed to have committed his crime to prove his superiority, but we always see him afterwards in a panic.  The fact that Lorre’s face is fascinating at all times does not mean that it is always really expressive.  More often than not here, it isn’t

NEXT POST Friday August 2

See you then and
See you at the movies,
Rick