This week it’s one of the more popular early Hitchcock movie. I love Hitch, but I don’t worship the entire oo-ver, as they say in Ag College film school; much of it, to modern eyes, appears quite ordinary. Here's a good one, but it's not "Rear Window." Some clues:
Well, it’s not "Slow Boat to China," an early film in which an innocent man is caught up in a web of intrigue, suffocating with panic and confusion as the strands of fate and fortune tighten around him. (In Shanghai, shown mostly in rear-projection.) Another clue, please:
That rules out "Deliberate Rendezvous," with Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor. (Grant played a spy mistaken for a socialite, who was actually a jewel robber.) Another clue:
Correct! It’s “Strange Toast,” a movie about two men whose lives are changed forever when one says “skol” and the other, a Scandinavian counterspy, believes he has given the secret word that indicates he wants to defect before Raymond Burr finds him, and buries him the garden below Mount Rushmore.
No, it’s “Strangers on a Train.” Our stars:
If ever there’s an actor capable of looking as though he seriously doesn’t get what’s going on, it’s Farley. Even the name sounds dim, like Wheaty Barnman. He’s bedeviled by a cheerful, deranged, and almost somewhat believable character played by:
He’s great. Died young from a misbegotten combo of sedatives and booze. The leading lady:
Her IMDB credits start out small: Girl, WAF, Envious Girl, Checkroom Girl, Glamour Girl. Lotha The Jungle Queen, Mud Girl, Girl in Negligee, and my favorite - aside from the Mud Girl, perhaps - “Girl at the Bright Dollar.” She plays "pensive but still classy" very well:
That's an hourglass figure. And the hour is midnight!
Sorry. Anyway: did you know Hitchcock appears in every movie? It’s true! He shows up here attempting to fit a double-bass into a train car, which I’m sure the Bogdonovich commentary track describes as a metaphor for the filmmaking process.
I wonder if this is the only moment Hitch ever makes eye contact with an actor during his cameos:
It’s there. It’s almost a taunt: oh, the misery I will put you through in this story. But there I go, bognodoviching it.
Is it noir? Well, it has this shot, which gives you a nice chill:
All you know is that you don’t want to be the guy the man on the steps is looking for. There’s this:
Cigarettes and hats; that’ll do. But it’s not noir. No noir movie would put the villain in this:
Then again, might this be the perfect example of noir loungewear? Take a closer look:
Well, it’s a robe of some kind . . . why, of course. It’s a smoking jacket. With cigarettes and ashtrays.
Trek connection factor: High. The bad guy in the smoking jacket may have kicked off early, but he had a kid who grew up to play an emotionally disturbed adolescent abandoned with superpowers and a father complex. Also, he played Charlie X: