May is Laird Cregar Month at @BNoirDetour. For those new to this blog, let me explain that it began as a place to introduce weekly livetweets of mostly B noir films. A film livetweet involves a host selecting a movie that is (generally) free to watch online, via such sites as YouTube and archive.org. At a fixed weekly time (in this case Sundays at 9pm US ET), a group of us use the hashtag #BNoirDetour and enjoy the film together, sharing appreciation, film facts, fashion advice, and a variety of riffs focused on moments that date the film or anything that makes us laugh or shake our heads. (Feel free to follow @BNoirDetour and join us any week you’re free.)
But back to Laird Cregar who is the focus of May 2017 for weekly livetweets at #BNoirDetour. We began the month with I Wake Up Screaming (1941), featuring Cregar as the obsessed cop who murders the object of his obsession and tries to pin it on her talent manager (Victor Mature). And last week we watched This Gun for Hire (1942), in which Cregar plays the treacherous yet squeamish villain who loves his ice cream but hates violence. Coming up are The Lodger (1944) and Hangover Street (1945), the latter released months after Cregars unfortunate death from heart damage after taking diet pills to lose enough weight to be considered for leading male roles.
I made this short video to announce the month and introduce viewers to an actor I feel deserves more appreciation for the 16 films he made in less than 5 years in Hollywood:
And between Sundays, I’m slowly deepening my experience and appreciation by watching his non-noir pictures. Yesterday, that meant an introduction to the romantic comedy Rings on Her Fingers (1942), starring Gene Tierney and Henry Fonda as well as Spring Byington, all at their delightful best, in a tale of crooks and a lovable but naive accountant that falls for a shop girl who dreams of wealth but eventually realizes that all she wants is love, marriage, and a family. (Pardon me while I gag on the sexism of romcoms, then and now.) I want to describe the film a bit because Cregar is great in his small but pivotal role, and it reminds me so much of two other films…
Laird is wonderful in this frothy tale of larceny played for laughs as Warren, a slimy con artist who travels the world with his partner, Mrs. Maybelle Worthington (Spring Byington). The pair talk Tierney’s Susan Miller into playing daughter Linda Worthington, living off the welathy.
Soon they spot the ideal sucker, John Wheeler (Henry Fonda), whom they take for a wealthy dupe, and with Susan’s help they con him out of $15K to buy a boat they don’t own. John, they eventually learn when he sets a private investigator to find Warren, is just an average timeclock puncher, and Susan shifts into guilt and then a determination to get him his money back…along with her love. She leaves Warren and Mrs. W, committed to going straight and marrying John.
Without telling John who she really is and with the assistance of a crooked club owner, Susan-as-Linda helps John to “win” his money back. When Warren finds out, he is determined to get her back, especially as their most recent con has won “Linda” the affection of wealthy bachelor (and friend of John) Tod Fenwick (Shepperd Strudwick), Mayhem ensues as Susan works to get John out of town before the PI tells him she was part of the team that took his money and to escape marriage to Fenwick. Eventually, as you can guess if you’ve seen any romantic comedies at all, the two end up living happily ever after.
Before concluding, I have to ponder why had I never heard of Rings on Her Fingers? Rings on Her Fingers is mostly charming, and it reminds me very much of The Lady Eve (1941). It showed me a light-hearted side of Tierney that I welcomed, along with the fun performance by Cregar. I wonder (but haven’t researched) whether the film was an attempt to recreate the success of The Lady Eve or whether they were too close together for actual influence. Certainly, a lot can be compared, from Fonda playing an earnest, naive fella that gets the girl to the art of con featuring the beautiful, street-wise gal (Stanwyck and Tierney). Cregar is most comparable to Charles Coburn’s “Colonel” Harrington, although he’s younger, less paternal, and with a dash of George Sanders. In any case, it’s a film I recommend to romcom and screwball fans. I’ll watch it again now that I’ve found it, that’s for certain.