Monday, June 13, 2022

Betty Grable, Victor Mature, and Carole Landis star in "I Wake Up Screaming"

I Wake Up Screaming (1941) is an American film noir directed by H. Bruce Humberstone and starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature, and Carole Landis. Other cast members include Laird Cregar, Alan Mowbray, Allyn Joslyn, Elisha Cook Jr., and Charles Lane.

Told mostly in flashbacks, the film explores the murder of a young starlet, Vicky Lynn (Landis). Vick's manager, Frankie Christopher (Mature) is the prime suspect, however, the case against him isn't that clear cut. Jill Lynn (Grable), Vicky's older sister is determined to find out who murdered her sister and why. In the meantime, detective Ed Cornell is convinced that Frankie is the murderer and works overtime trying to convince the police that this is so.

Did Frankie Christopher murder Vicky Lynn? If so, what was his motive? Was Frankie the only one who had a motive to murder Vicky?

Laird Cregar (far left) and Victor Mature (middle)

H. Bruce Humberstone (1901 - 1984) was an American film director and former child actor. A founding member of the Directors Guild of America, Humberstone worked in a variety of genres including comedies, dramas, and musicals. Some of the popular and classic films directed by Humberstone include Street Scene (1931), Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943), Wonder Man (1945), and The Desert Song (1953).

Betty Grable (1916 - 1973) was an American actress, dancer, and singer. She was the most popular pin-up girl during World War II. She was also a top box office star from 1942 to 1951. In 1946 and 1947, she was the highest-paid woman in America. Grable starred mostly in musicals and light comedies. Grable made two non-musicals,  A Yank in the R. A. F. (1941), and I Wake Up Screaming. Both films were extremely popular, but Grable felt most comfortable in musicals. Other popular Grable films include Down Argentine Way (1940), Moon Over Miami (1941), Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943), The Dolly Sisters (1945), Mother Wore Tights (1947), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). 

Victor Mature (1913 – 1999) was an American stage, film, and television actor who became a major movie star during the 1940s under contract to 20th Century-Fox. Before his film career took off, Mature starred in Lady in the Dark (1941) on Broadway opposite Gertrude Lawrence. Some of Mature’s notable films include I Wake Up Screaming (1941) with Betty Grable, The Shanghai Gesture (1941) with Gene Tierney. In 1942, he starred opposite Rita Hayworth in the musical My Gal Sal. Other notable films include Samson and Delilah (1949), and The Robe (1952), the first film released in the Cinemascope widescreen process. Mature was self-deprecating when it came to his acting. He said, “I’m no actor, and I’ve got 64 pictures to prove it.”

Carole Landis (1919 - 1948) was an American actress and singer. She was under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox in the 1940s. Her breakout performance was in One Million B.C.I (1940) for United Artists costarring Victor Mature. It was her success in this film that lead to her contract with Fox. During World War II, Landis toured and entertained troops. She wrote about her experiences which were published in several magazines. Eventually, her experiences became the basis for the film Four Jills in a Jeep (1944). Landis's career declined somewhat in the late 1940s. She had an affair with Rex Harrison during this time. When he refused to divorce his wife and marry her, Landis committed suicide.

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.

I Wake Up Screaming trivia
  • This was the first film noir produced by Twentieth Century-Fox.
  • Alice Faye was set to play the role that eventually went to Betty Grable.
  • Grable originally was to have a musical number in the film but that idea was ultimately rejected.
  • Carole Landis did her own singing in the film.
  • This was the first film Victor Mature made under his Fox contract.
  • Grable and the film were a big success but she never made another film noir.

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

To join the discussion on June 20, 2022, at 6 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions
  1. Does this film fit your understanding of what makes a film noir?
  2. Betty Grable said she never received a good review; what did you think of her performance?
  3. Carole Landis had a tough task playing the wildly popular Grable's younger sister. What did you make of her performance?
  4. We have another moody and odd performance by Laird Cregar, although this was one of his earlier character roles at Fox. Was he believable as the obsessed detective?
  5. Were you surprised by the film's conclusion? Would you have written a different ending?

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