At the prompting of my erudite friend Walter Tunis, I watched TCM’s showing of Three Strangers (1946). While I wasn’t as taken with the film or Geraldine Fitzgerald’s performance as Eddie Muller, I was quite arrested by Joan Lorring’s portrayal of Icey.
And of course seeing Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet together again reminded me…
The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) features one of my favorite acting teams. Unlike Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers they don’t dance and sing. Unlike William Powell and Myrna Loy they are not rich and in love with each other. Unlike Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis they are not stupid.
Greenstreet and Lorre could not be more unlike. Nor could their differences be more delightful.
Greenstreet and Lorre don’t even appear together in the same scene in a movie sometimes Casablanca (1942) comes to mind. Lorre squirms, fawns, and dies in Rick’s Café Americaine long before we see Greenstreet fleecing foreigners and swatting flies (with similar personal involvement, I might point out) in the Blue Parrot.
In The Maltese Falcon (1941), Greenstreet; “…likes talking to a man who likes to talk…”, while Lorre complains; “…you’ll understand our conversations have not been such that I wish to continue them.” The chemistry between them is sizzling…like Oliver and Hardy…but with real bullets.
In Dimitrios, the bullets are indeed real. The stakes are sinister and high. The rooms are exquisite and bright, as are the wits. The stairs outside are dark and ominous, as are the intentions. The disgraced remain disgraced. The dead remain…or do they?
Frank Capra can stay home on this one. Ain’ no angels earnin’ wings ‘round these parts.
In these waters, Greenstreet and Lorre swim for their lives while criss-crossing Europe in sleeper cars, sipping champagne, and lookin’ fine in their threads.
If these two fine character actors are both in a flick, you can bet with confidence that the flick is gonna be interesting. The Mask of Dimitrios is exactly that.
I really like this one.