Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hangover Square (1945)

Hangover Square
Director: John Brahm
USA 1945
77 min

A dramatic thriller set in a foggy London in the beginning of the 20th century. A composer, George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar) struggles with the writing of a piano concerto, while he realizes that he suffer from black outs when he hears dissonance.
The film begins with this sequence:

After that George returns home to meet his girlfriend Barbara (Faye Marlowe). He has blood on his forehead and a knife in his pocket. He can't explain why to his girlfriend, because he can't remember. Soon they hear the newpaper boys shouting about a murder having been commited in that part of London where George had just been. Barbara persuades George to believe that he couldn't have done it. George is worried anyhow, and decides to contact a doctor he has heard of, that know a lot about the modern findings of psychology, Dr. Allan Middleton (played by the wonderful George Sanders).

Nightclub singer Netta (Linda Darnell).

The doctor advices him to take a break from the stress of writing the concerto, and befriend other London citizens. That's when George meet nightclub singer Netta Longdon (Linda Darnell). He becomes obsessed with her, and she takes advantage of his interest for her by making him write songs for her. George is too blind of devotion that he can't see that his stress returns, and soon other attempts of murders are commited around him.

Netta, using her femininity to get George to write songs for her.

Dr. Allan Middleton keeps his eyes open.

I saw this film for the first time yesterday, and I deeply regret that I hadn't seen it much sooner. This might be one of the greatest films I've ever seen, easily reaching the top ten. (Not that I ever rank the films I see, but if I did I'm sure this one would be on it.)
The actors are at their best, the music is both beautiful and inconvenient, the photography is wonderful with a great contrast in the gray scale. But most of all they managed to show the protagonist's dramatic change when he turns into a different person with uncomplicated and brilliant techniques. The noise in his head, the rings on the pool of water that pauses in its movements, and of course the brilliance of Laird Cregar's acting.

Here follows a great documentary on Laird Cregar that I found on the extra material for Hangover Square, which tragically enough was to be his last film. In only twenty minutes you learn a lot of him and the tragedy of his death.
(God, it took a lot of time before this piece of film was uploaded on the blog, so see it!)


George Harvey Bone: All my life I've had black little moods.

George Harvey Bone: But, Dr. Middleton, music is the most important thing in the world to me.
Dr. Allan Middleton: No, Mr. Bone, the most important thing is your life.

Netta Longdon: "All for you. There's not a thing I wouldn't or that I couldn't do." You wrote that for me, George. But you've never really tried to find out, have you?


Christopher said...

I got the John Brahm dvd set for Christmas a couple of yeas ago and enjoyed all 3 films,but I think this was my favorite in the set..I'll have to give it another looksie to see what it was I liked about it ..other than it had George Sanders and Linda Darnell whom i both love!...for different reasons.. ;o)

Lolita said...

A John Brahm dvd set? How awesome. I wish more classic films could be released on DVD in Sweden. I do have a Lon Chaney dvd set, though, which I bought in a obscure little shop in Norrköping, where I live. Imported and Region 1, sure, but I can watch it on de-coded DVD-players, and it's an irreplaceable item in my DVD collection!
Haha, I say like you. I love Sanders and Darnell both, for different reasons...

Christopher said...

I fairly recently got the TCM Lon Chaney set that has Laugh Clown Laugh,The Unknown(one of my favorites)and The Ace of Hearts
I have my DVD player decoded because I collect lot of foriegn stuff like Spaghetti westerns Euro genre films that you just can't find here in the US..

Matthew Coniam said...

The Brahm box set I've got is misleadingly titled 'Fox Horror Classics', I'm guessing this is the same one. Worth getting from Amazon. It's got The Undying Monster, a fun but forgettable wolf man film, and two Cregar classics - Hangover and The Lodger. Both are amazing.
Cregar is a brilliant actor, but he looks terrifying in Hangover because he's so thin, and the fact that he was about to to die at least in part because of the crash dieting he's been doing makes it even more uncomfortable to watch. He's fat and magnificent in The Lodger, and also in This Gun For Hire with Ronnie Lake.
And the weirdest thing of all is the fact that he looks mid-forties in them but was still only in his late twenties when he died.

Lolita said...

That's the Chaney-box I had the luck to find!
Seems like we have it tricky on both sides of the Atlantic, then...

Matthew Coniam:
Horror? A little misleading, perhaps.
Yes, I saw the documentary on Cregar before I watched the film, so I had that inconvenient feeling when I saw him, knowing that he would die from that weight loss...
I think he was 31 years old when he died. Just tragic.

Gloria said...

Thnaks so much for the video! I had read about Cregar's career and sad demise but the documentary really fills you in about him.

I recall reading George Sanders' memoirs: you know Sanders could be quite acid (in DeWitt fashion), but he's so elegiac when writing about Cregar, whom he regarded as a good working companion and a fine actor, and is so sad about Cregar... well, killing himself because he dreamed about being a romantic lead. Sanders himself couldn't be less worried about not being a romantic lead: as he would write, a character actor's career lasted longer than a romantic lead's... so on he went to make a long career of mostly playing cads and villains!

It is ironic that Vincent Price, who would become, according to the documentary, sort of Cregar's successor, didn't seem to care (lean & attractive as he was) about being cast in villain parts, and, as Sanders, had a long and fruitful career by doing so.

I am myself a big Charles Laughton fan, and I often come about comments about how he disliked the way he looked, etc (also, as Cregar, he was gay), but I have the impression that he coped with that better that it is thought (certainly better than Cregar)