Monday, 13 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Laird Cregar in I Wake Up Screaming

Laird Cregar did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying detective Ed Cornell in I Wake Up Screaming.

I Wake Up Screaming is an effective film noir, although I say the love story bogs down the second half more than it should, about the unsolved murder of a glamor model Vicky (Carole Landis). 

Well I'm reviewing a supporting performance in a mystery, that's played by Laird Cregar who usually played rather unsavory figures in his tragically brief career, so I guess you know who did it right? Well just wait moment. Laird Cregar makes his initial appearance being a voice in darkness as the prime suspect for the murder, a promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), is being interrogated by several detectives. The outline of Cregar as well as his voice certainly makes for an ominous presence in these early scenes. The build up of his character only continues as the first time we are able to see him more fully is still as a shadowy figure in the flashbacks watching Vicky and her sister Jill Lynn (Betty Grable). He makes his dramatic announced entrance as he is told to be detective Ed Cornell the head of the investigation and Jill fingers him as a stalker that must be the murderer. Cornell though has an airtight alibi, and I'm not talking Agatha Christie airtight. So if Cregar is not there to be the murderer what is he there for? Well to steal the show obviously.

Cregar has such a presence that is truly remarkable. Here he even gets to stretch past the psychopath as he plays the detective who will follow our 'hero' no matter the obstacle. These characters usually are portrayed as particularly foolish but that's not the case with Ed thanks in large part due to Cregar's performance. Cregar has such a powerful innate confidence about himself as he actually bothers to realize the method of Ed who is touted as a great detective. Well Cregar earns this in his performance as there is something so incisive about the way he quietly watches Frankie or any other potential subject. There is one particularly striking scene where he forces a couple of the suspects to watch footage of the dead girl and the way he so calmly glances at the men it only seems inevitable that one of them will break down. Cregar, even though he is indeed not the murderer, does carry such a considerable menace here as he makes Cornell almost an unstoppable force. The often calm manner that Cregar brings in Cornell interrogation manner is surprisingly off-putting as he actually shows how it was that Cornell likely solved his other cases.

Every scene he shares with Victor Mature is brilliant for Cregar. Cornell is assured that Frankie is the murderer, and Cregar presents this as he has him in his grip during every scene they share together. There is one especially fantastic scene where they share a car ride together and Cornell talks with Frankie over the case lining out his objective. Cregar is terribly chilling in the scene as we see him almost envisioning the death of Frankie in his eyes. As he states so gently how he will basically achieve his death by hanging while simply playing with a piece of string. Cregar brings such a quietly grim element that creates a palatable sense of dread as Cornell hands off the finished string to Frankie which has formed a noose. The noir I think easily could have fallen into a mediocrity if left purely to the leads and the story but Cregar never lets that happen. In the scenes where he does appear he makes such a threatening atmosphere needed for the film, and when he is not onscreen he is never forgotten. Honestly I think I definitely would have preferred the film if it simply had been a character study focused on Cregar's Cornell, since Cregar is so fascinating in creating the tenebrous detective.

Well as great as Cregar is as the villain who's not the murderer in a murder mystery the film in its final scene does explain why Cornell is so determined to see Frankie hanged. That being because this was not merely just another case for Cornell but rather Cornell dated Vicky when she was a waitress before Frankie discovered her. Cregar is outstanding in the final scene because brings such a genuine loss in Cornell as he speaks. In his voice Cregar conveys the loneliness of the man as well as those past glimpses of happiness of memory that Frankie did in fact take away from him. Cregar is rather heartbreaking because he portrays Cornell as the man who was the most broken by her death. Cregar's is able to realize this final revelation in such a convincing and sympathetic way, even though he was fine with sending Frankie to death row even though he did not actually kill her, that the film feels rather cruel when it still seems to treat the character with disdain. Cregar's performance earns more than that though as he wholly earns the surprisingly moving end note to his character, when he has been such compelling terror beforehand. This is an excellent performance from an actor who deserves to be remembered.


Michael McCarthy said...

Welp, it's definitely not gonna be a one-horse race...

Matt Mustin said...

This isn't a request so much as a suggestion, but could you consider reviewing Brad Dourif in The Exorcist III for 1990 Supporting?

RatedRStar said...

Louis, would you say the killer was easy to figure out (Laura) or hard to figure out (The Murderer lives at Number 21)?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I feel like I'm the only one who found the killer in Laura hard to figure out (I mean it's really a testament to *spoiler* Webb's performance that he keeps you guessing and second-guessing his motives the whole time, I even thought he was going to end up as the unlikely hero at one point)

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: There's another actor in the cast that makes it a bit of a giveaway.

Matt: Certainly.

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Vivien Leigh in That Hamilton Woman and Irene Dunne in Penny Serenade?

RatedRStar said...

@Louis: Would it be someone who appeared in your previous post =D lol.

RatedRStar said...

@Donald: Well I knew it would be between Price or Webb since Laura has such a small cast, and being that Price was the one being the most obvious suspect being suspicious, and Webb being the most like, unsuspecting I felt it had to be Webb.

I should say I love Webbs creepy entrance when he sneaks back in to the apartment like when the camera turns around to show a door slowing opening =D, did you also like it Donald/Louis?

RatedRStar said...

Heres how I did on some murder mysteries or mysteries with a culprit of some kind, I have seen nearly all but these are just a few and how I did.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Far too easy to guess since I saw the tv series and even so the trailer gives it away too easily, guessed right.

Laura - Was always between the two males, guessed right

Crossfire - Robert Ryans in it, guessed right.

The Thin Man - So many characters, guessed wrong.

Prisoners -There was only a few suspects, the one least obvious was the kidnapper, guessed right.

Clue - The least obvious person, guessed right since it was one of the endings.

Murder On The Orient Express - Would anyone get it completely right? guessed wrong

In The Heat Of The Night - Very hard for anyone I think except I knew it was a minor character, guessed wrong

And Then There Were None - It had to be one of the two more unconvincing deaths which happened offscreen (Huston or Fitzgerald), guessed right

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@RatedRStar: Well since Laura is one of my all-time favourite film noirs and Clifton Webb is the best part of it, I naturally loved every moment of his, but that scene is one of the most beautifully shot/subtly acted scenes of tension ever.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - The T.V. series did a much better job than the film in disguising who the culprit was, owing to the superior performance of the mole. I read the novel before watching it so I knew who it was going to be anyway, but I have to say the execution of the reveal scene was a bit lacking in the film, one of the very few reservations I have about it.

Laura - I actually thought it was Price lol. Pretty darned silly in retrospect.

Crossfire - Same. Robert Ryan. 'Nuff said, although I think he did well to make it both obvious/not obvious.

The Thin Man - Read the book beforehand as well, but I thought they did a great job in hiding who the killer was even though, really, watching that film all I cared about was Nick and Nora (and that's praise)

Prisoners - Lost interest about 'who' did it halfway through and did not care at all that it was really a bit of a 'cop-out' twist (although I still do think the film is decent enough as an atmospheric thriller)

Clue - Depends on which ending you're talking about, but I thought they were all equally effective in hiding the mystery.

Murder On The Orient Express - Fuck that film! And I have to respect Agatha Christie for her contributions to the mystery genre but...ugh, that ending...

In The Heat Of The Night - I actually loved that the culprit was actually a fairly obvious guy if you think about it, it was just that so many red herrings were thrown around with the racial/social issues etc. that I was completely fooled

And Then There Were None - Fuck that film! And I have to respect Agatha Christie for her contributions to the mystery genre but...ugh...

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@RatedRStar: How would you compare the casts of the T.V. show and film?

Smiley - Alec Guinness (by a hair, I won't write too much as I am planning perhaps to start a blog on this sort of thing in the near future)

Guillam - Michael Jayston (this is tough actually, Jayston gives the more consistent performance but Cumberbatch is very moving and uplifting in two reaction scenes)

Esterhase - Bernard Hepton (no contest, I didn't like Dencick to start with and Hepton creates such a delightfully odd figure.)

Haydon - Ian Richardson (Oh my gosh, Richardson was such an amazing actor, anyone else seen the original British miniseries of House of Cards, if you think Spacey is great just wait till you watch old Rich)

Prideaux - A tie (a slight edge to Ian Bannen perhaps, but Mark Strong made a lot out of very, very little)

Tarr - Tom Hardy (not even close, I fucking hated Hywel Bennett's 'too cool for school' rendition of the character and much preferred Hardy's magnificently emotional, deeply resonant performance)

Alleline - Toby Jones (also not close at all, Jones puts such an interesting spin on a well-worn stock figure while Aldridge is a bit bland.)

Control - John Hurt (by a hair, as Knox is great too. I just thought Hurt was simply more dynamic, although to be fair they had two very different styles of approaching the enigma of a character)

I should also note one of the strengths of the miniseries is the screentime they give to characters like Connie Sachs, Jerry Westerbury , and particularly Ann Smiley, who are all marvellously acted.

luke higham said...

Louis: Can I have your rating for Tom Hulce in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, plus your re-thoughts, since you've upped his ranking placement a fair bit.

RatedRStar said...

@Donald: Its quite hard to I think, because the TV series just goes deeper I think, and the whole feel is very different, the Tv series feels very cold and pessimistic, the film version goes more for human emotion and confrontational characters shouting and disagreeing with each other lol.

I would agree on all of them with you although I would give Strong an edge over Bannen.

RatedRStar said...

I think Colin Firths performance in Tinker Tailor actually gets a little bit worse on repeated viewings, he seems just a bit too suspicious, and I actually think he is overshadowed by other cast members that he shares scenes with, another reason the reveal at the end doesn't come across as surprising, even if I hadnt seen the trailer or Tv series I would have guessed instantly as he seems just a bit too obvious that he is hiding something.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@RatedRStar: Yeah Firth does go a bit too far with his shifty side, and lacked the humorous touch that we know he can exude. I will give him his final reaction shot to Strong.

Imagine a Hong Kong version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Daniel :)

Smiley - Lau Ching Wan
Guillam - Liu Ye
Esterhase - Alex Fong
Haydon - Francis Ng
Prideaux - Roy Cheung (basically an expanded version of his Beast Cops role, the betrayed man)
Tarr - Eddie Peng
Alleline - Eric Tsang
Control - Lam Suet with aged makeup

Louis Morgan said...


I love that scene.


Leigh - 3.5(I don't what it is but it's odd how there just seems to be something missing from Leigh's non-Oscar winning performances. Unfortunately I did feel that was the case here as well, but this was not a bad performance by any means. She's charming here and is good enough in the scenes as the broken woman though it never becomes any too special)

Dunne - 4(Really she is much like Grant's performance. In the happy section of the film Dunne, as usual, is quite charming and winning in portraying the good days. Then in the extreme change of the bad days Dunne does create the needed sort of poignancy in portraying the sorrow that breaks the couple apart)


Hulce - 4(Looking at my original ranking it just did not seem right to me. I think he's a bit underrated as he is sometimes forgotten amidst the praise that Tony Jay receives, although he receives that rightly so. Hulce thought I think gives really love performance though as I find his enthusiasm he brings to the role to be really effective. He never makes it a one note thing but realizes the hunchback well as the man who seems like he has the right to be a monster though he refuses to be one. His singing is not technically perfect by any means, but I think the life he brings to each scene more than makes up for it)