Monday, July 28, 2008

Laird Cregar

I mentioned Laird Cregar a few days ago when I recommended Don Ameche's Heaven Can Wait. Yesterday's viewing for me was the 1945 movie Hangover Square. I was going to post on it yesterday, until I noticed that July 28 is the birth anniversary of its star, Laird Cregar.

Cregar stars as George Harvey Bone, a composer in turn-of-the-20th-century London who has a bit of a problem: he has bouts of losing his memory, and every time he loses his loses his memory, he also kills somebody. (It's not much of a spoiler to point this out; the opening scene of the movie has Bone killing a man and setting the man's shop on fire.) To be honest, there's not all that much to the rest of the movie. Bone falls for a woman (Fox star Linda Darnell) but eventually strangles her, while a Scotland Yard detective played by George Sanders tries to figure out who killed these people. However, there is one very good reason to watch this, which is the classical music. The sub-plot of Hangover Square deals with Bone's trying to complete a concerto, ultimately playing it during the movie's climax when Sanders also comes to arrest him, having solved the murder. That concerto, along with the rest of the score, was composed by Bernard Herrmann, and it is worth sitting through about an hour of sub-par material to get to the fabulous Herrmann concerto.

The other interesting, but sad piece of trivia is that Hangover Square was Cregar's final film. Cregar was by all accounts a very big man. He stood about six foot three, and had the build of a footbal lineman, weighing close to three hundred pounds. He went on a crash diet, apparently to lose weight for the making of Hangover Square and to avoid being typecast, and lost close to a hundred pounds, but not without some serious health problems. Shortly after completing filming on Hangover Square, Cregar was hospitalized with a stomach condition, and despite surgery, Cregar died several days later of a heart attack at the age of 28.

Fortunately, however, we have DVDs of Cregar's movies, including Hangover Square, so that he may live on in the hearts of classic movie fans.

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