Monday, May 23, 2022

Merle Oberon, George Sanders, and Laird Cregar in "The Lodger"

The Lodger (1944) is an American horror-suspense film directed by John Brahm and starring Merle Oberon, George Sanders, and Laird Cregar. The film is based on Jack the Ripper story and is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's silent version, The Lodger: A Story of London Fog (1927). The screenplay was by Barre Lyndon, and the cinematography was by Lucien Ballard—who was married to Merle Oberon from 1945 to 1949. 

Ballard invented a light mounted by the side of the camera that provided direct light onto an actor’s face, which reduced skin blemishes and wrinkles. The device was named the “Obie” after Oberon, who had some facial scarring from a car accident.

Slade (Cregar) is a lodger in the home of a 19th-century London family. So is Kitty Langley (Oberon), a cabaret performer. Slade is attracted to Kitty and she to him. Will Kitty become Slade's next victim?

Laird Cregar

John Brahm (1893 - 1982) was a German film director who immigrated to the United States in 1937. Brahm found work as a director, first employed by Columbia Pictures and then 20th Century-Fox. Brahm's most famous films include The Lodger (1944), Hangover Square, and The Lockett (1946). Brahm also directed many television shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone.

Merle Oberon (1911 - 1979) was a British actress who had roles in several popular films in Britain before coming to the United States to make films for Samuel Goldwyn. In 1935, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Dark Angel. In 1937, she was in a car accident that left her with facial scars. The accident almost ended her career but she was able to work in film and television until 1973. Oberon starred as Anne Boleyn opposite Charles Laughton in The Private Lives of Henry VIII (1933), which was her first big success. She starred opposite Lesley Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel  (1934). Perhaps her most famous role is as Cathy in Wuthering Heights (1939) opposite Laurence Olivier. She also starred in These Three (1936), Beloved Enemy (1936), Lydia (1941), A Song to Remember (1945), Night Song (1947), and Berlin Express (1948).

Merle Oberon and George Sanders

George Sanders (1906 – 1972) was a British film and stage actor who also had a fine singing voice. Hollywood was looking for a villain to star opposite a young Tyrone Power in Lloyd’s of London (1936) and Sanders more than fit the bill. His performance in that film would forever stamp him as a sophisticated bad guy. Before his acting career, he worked in the textile industry, which must have helped him with his role in The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry. In the 1960s, Sanders played Mr. Freeze in the Batman (1966) television series.

Laird Cregar (1913 - 1944) was an American film and stage actor. Cregar came to Hollywood due to his success with the play Oscar Wilde in Los Angeles in 1940. Cregar signed a contract with 20th Century Fox and quickly became a popular character actor. Due to his large size (he weighed 300 pounds), he was often cast as the bad guy. In an effort to become a leading man in the movies, Cregar went on a crash diet during the productions of The Lodger and Hangover Square. To aid in his dieting, Cregar was prescribed amphetamines which had a negative effect on his system, causing abdominal problems. These problems lead to surgery and eventually a heart attack. He died shortly after at age 31.

The Lodger trivia
  • Merle Oberon fell in love with cinematographer Lucien Ballard during production. They were married the next year.
  • This film propelled Laird Cregar to stardom and the studio was in the process of finding similar properties for the actor.
  • One of the first films to have a point of view shot from the killer's perspective.
  • The film was completed in 1943 but not released until the next year.

To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link below.

To join the discussion on Monday, May 30, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and link to join the discussion on Zoom. 

Discussion questions
  1. This film is related in style and plot to Hangover Square (1945), a film we discussed a few months ago, which also starred Laird Cregar and George Sanders and was also directed by John Brahm. Which film do you think is better?
  2. Did the film seem like a realistic depiction of the Jack the Ripper story?
  3. What did you think of Merle Oberon's performance as Kitty? Did she make a credible cabaret performer?
  4. This was a breakout film of sorts for Laird Cregar. What did you think of his performance?
  5. The film is often categorized as a horror film. Do you think that's the best category for this film? Do you have a better one?
  6. The Lodger was praised for the atmosphere created by the director and the production team? Were the critics correct in their assessment?

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