Monday, July 21, 2008

Neville!!! Come Out, Neville!!!





I was over at Larry's on Saturday watching HANGOVER SQUARE which starred Laird Cregar and Linda Darnell. Great film, not to be confused with Chicago's real-life Bughouse Square, up there by the Newberry Library. Cregar had lost quite a bit of weight since his previous film, THE LODGER. In that film, as he portrays Jack The Ripper, an image kept nagging at me, and it came to me as I waited on my el train home. In Richard Matheson's book I AM LEGEND, Robert Neville is always taunted by Ben Cortman, the guy he car-pooled with to the factory before the vampire plague of 1976. There's a great sense of danger when he bellows out Neville's name, and it is not until very late in the book that you realize Cortman resembled Oliver Hardy (per Matheson's own words), which put a surprise to the reader (or to me, at least), who might have thought the fellow to be more foreboding. Sadly, not a single version of I AM LEGEND shows any respect for the novel, though to be honest, the novel as is could never really be told other than on the printed page. But I finally have a fact to go with my Bud Cortman, the next time I reard I AM LEGEND, I'll be thinking of Laird Cregar. The guy kept losing weight, had two heart attacks, and died when he was 31. In HANGOVER SQUARE, his costar was Linda Darnell, who I knew had been a drinker and died in a fire. Larry looked this up after the film, and it turned out she was in Glenview, up north, at a friend's joint, and fell asleep smoking. She had died the next day at Cook County Hospital with burns over 90% of her body, her age was 41. Also waiting at the el, I wondered if perhaps one of those times I was at Illinois Research having the clinical psychologists have their way with me, Darnell might have been just down the hall in the burn ward, sometimes you could peek in on the way to the bathroom. Well, anyways, these are the kind of things I think about while standing three stories up under a full moon, the smell of rain in the air, the approaching train a small light on the horizon...

9 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Oliver Hardy? Yes, I don't see him all that terrifying. Unless you're a sandwich.

Lana Gramlich said...

Fall asleep smoking (cigarettes,) wake up smoking (you.) What a horrible way to go!

Stewart Sternberg said...

No? Really? Well, Charles, would you think he was terrifying if he was standing over your bed, naked, a rash running along his neck, flaking and red. And in his hand a mallet? And as you struggle to roll over and find your way to your feet, you discover you've been tied down and you aren't going anywhere? Would you find him terrifying THEN???!!!! HEY???!!!! THEN?????

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

See, when I read the book the first time, I saw Cortman as a tough guy taunter, like Brando. So it was very odd to be told his actual appearance late in the book. But if you watch THE LODGER, you can see how menacing that character can be...and I sure wish more people reading this will go back to my post from last week on Bubbly Creek. Its barren of comments, but for Charles, Warrior Stud, and Bob. Note that I've mentioned only two names plus a "street name" there.

Steve Malley said...

I can imagine little more terrifying than a deeply pissed-off Oliver Hardy.

No, I can: a deeply pissed-off *and* horny Oliver Hardy.

Or... Oliver Hardy, deeply pissed and horny, wearing a wet shirt and no pants, flying a kite at night.

Scared just thinking about it...

HemlockMan said...

I had hoped that the new version of I AM LEGEND would be faithful to the novel. Alas.

Laird Creger was another one of those actors that my mom liked a lot. Apparently the heart attacks were brought on by his attempts to lose weight. Hollywood and all that. He was great as Satan in the movie HEAVEN CAN WAIT (not the 70s film with that title, but the early one). Although he's not in the movie very much, he's the best part of it.

Years ago read a really excellent short biography of him in some film magazine. We're talking old. I read it when I was a little kid. But it made an impression on me, and the article was pretty sad--it made me feel sorry for the guy.

Lucas Pederson said...

You know...I've never read "I am Legend". I know, I'm sad, sad man. But it's on my list of books to read, so I'll ge to it here shortly. I watched teh Will Smith version, thought it was okay.

I have a feeling the book is much, much better..

By the way...hey Wayne!!! LoL!

Anonymous said...

You'll have to see Cregar in "I Wake Up Screaming" someday. Not a great film but Cregar is wonderfully threatening.

My favorite aspect of "Hangover Square" is the score by my all-time great film score composer, Bernard Herrmann.

-- Rich

Anonymous said...

Just keep him away from the Turbines. That's where Ed is.
HEF