Monday, December 23, 2013

Payment Deferred (1932)

Payment Deferred is a crime thriller and showcase for actor Charles Laughton, who previously played the same protagonist role on stage (both stage and film are based on the novel by C.S. Forester).

Laughton plays a pathetic in-debt banker who commits a crime in order to stay financially solvent. His wife and daughter (Dorothy Peterson and Maureen O'Sullivan) gradually begin to suspect wrongdoing and his affair with a worldly (you can tell because she has a European accent) local merchant (Verree Teasdale) only gets him deeper in trouble.
Ray Milland also plays one of his earliest roles. It all adds up to a slowly simmering tale that's a bit darker than the sort of film MGM usually made.

Nearly the entire movie rests on Laughton's slumped, sad shoulders and he's perfect looking for the role. I do wonder if he wasn't too entrenched in the character, after 70 Broadway stage performances, to bring the sort of subtlety in acting the film camera requires. His performances on film in the decades ahead would be much more convincing.

I do need to mention the direction of Lothar Mendes (1894–1974), who quite capably directed a variety of genres over a forty year span and who here shoots some wonderfully evocative compositions which reminded me of Fritz Lang's work on films like M. Payment Deferred also has the sort of decaying sense of place as Lang's House By the River.

Payment Deferred is not available on DVD, but has been broadcast on TCM.

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