Peter Lorre & Greer Garson Movies: 'Mad Love' & 'The Miniver Story'

Peter Lorre & Greer Garson: Summer Under the Stars

Greer Garson in That Forsyte WomanWednesday-Thursday, Aug. 13–14, highlights on Turner Classic Movies: Peter Lorre and Greer Garson.

Greer Garson and Peter Lorre. How come no one ever thought of pairing those two? Talk about opposites attracting. In fact, talk about worlds colliding: “Dust on the Third Floor,” “The Ladies Who Knew Too Much,” “The Mad Miniver Story,” “Arsenic and Prejudice.” Think of the possibilities…

Imagine Mrs. Miniver with Peter Lorre as the German soldier who invades Greer Garson's English rose garden, stealing both her petals and her heart as he plucks a blood-red rose (dark-gray in black-and-white) and hands it to the Mrs., purring “From Germany, with love.” Consumed by mad, expressionistic passion, the duo would then set out to bump off Mr. Miniver, collect the life-insurance money, and move to Aruba – far away from tribal wars and cold, damp weather. Perhaps then Mrs. Miniver would have deserved all those Oscars it won.

However, there would be no pretty English roses for poor Peter Lorre, who instead was stuck making whoopee with the likes of Sydney Greenstreet and Humphrey Bogart – and later on, Vincent Price and Boris Karloff.

The equally poor Greer Garson was stuck holding hands with Walter Pidgeon – who was a likable chap, mind you, but no Peter Lorre.

Of the Peter Lorre films TCM is showing on Wednesday, the one I most recommend is Hotel Berlin. It's no masterpiece, but I believe this largely forgotten wartime drama – in the Grand Hotel style, featuring several intertwined stories – should be better known. Faye Emerson, Andrea King, Raymond Massey, and the super-handsome Helmut Dantine co-star.

Mad Love is great to look at – hardly a surprise, considering that the director was master cinematographer Karl Freund. But Frances Drake, though quite pretty, was no Greer Garson. A strange film to come out of 1930s MGM. (Yeah, ok, the studio that also brought you Freaks and Mark of the Vampire.)

If only Garson and Lorre had been a hot screen couple, perhaps the actress would have today the respect her acting deserves. Glamorously – and reticently – ladylike she may have been (gee whiz, thanks, Mr. Mayer!), but Greer Garson was also a superlative performer. Of her films being shown on TCM on Thursday, my two favorites are Random Harvest, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, and Pride and Prejudice (right), directed by Robert Z. Leonard.

The former, a tale of love in times of amnesia, is an utterly absurd nonsense that manages to be deeply moving because everyone involved seems to take the aforementioned utterly absurd nonsense with the straightest of faces. There's LeRoy's unabashed romantic touch (a far cry from the way he'd handled his snappy Warner Bros. movies); Herbert Stothart's haunting score; Joseph Ruttenberg's dreamlike black-and-white cinematography; and Garson, Ronald Colman, and Susan Peters delivering flawless performances while loving, losing, remembering, forgetting, remembering again.

Pride and Prejudice may not be exactly what one would call an adaptation faithful to the spirit of Jane Austen's novel; even so, I found nothing to complain about this impeccably produced, acted, written, and directed sample of studio filmmaking at its grandest. Garson was a little – make that a lot – too old to play Elizabeth Bennet, but she fully conveys the young maiden's youthful wilfulness all the same. Edna May Oliver may have as much in common with Austen's Lady Catherine de Bourgh as I do, but she's a delight nevertheless. Even Laurence Olivier, who tended to be much too precious in his early film forays, delivers a remarkably subtle and charming performance as the arrogant Lord Darcy.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

Peter Lorre movies

13 Wednesday

3:00 AM Hotel Berlin (1945)
During World War II's final days, people with a variety of problems converge on a Berlin hotel. Cast: Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Faye Emerson. Helmut Dantine. Andrea King. Dir.: Peter Godfrey. Black and white. 98 min.

5:00 AM Confidential Agent (1945)
A Spanish spy and an American heiress battle fascists in England. Cast: Charles Boyer, Lauren Bacall, Peter Lorre. Dir.: Herman Shumlin. Black and white. 118 min.

7:00 AM All Through The Night (1942)
A criminal gang turns patriotic to track down a Nazi spy ring. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Conrad Veidt, Jane Darwell. Peter Lorre. Dir.: Vincent Sherman. Black and white. 107 min.

9:00 AM Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
A young man about to be married discovers the two aunts who raised him have been poisoning lonely old men. Cast: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane. Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre. Josephine Hull. Jean Adair. Jack Carson. Dir.: Frank Capra. Black and white. 118 min.

11:00 AM My Favorite Brunette (1947)
A baby photographer mistaken for a private eye ends up framed for murder. Cast: Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Peter Lorre. Dir.: Elliott Nugent. Black and white. 86 min.

12:30 PM Background to Danger (1943)
An American gets caught up in wartime action in Turkey. Cast: George Brent, Brenda Marshall, Sydney Greenstreet. Dir.: Raoul Walsh. Black and white. 80 min.

2:00 PM Quicksand (1950)
Petty theft leads a mechanic into a life of crime. Cast: Mickey Rooney, Jeanne Cagney, Peter Lorre. Dir.: Irving Pichel. Black and white. 79 min.

3:30 PM The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
A British family gets mixed up with spies and an assassination plot while vacationing in Switzerland. Cast: Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre. Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock. Black and white. 75 min.

5:00 PM Mad Love (1935)
A mad doctor grafts the hands of a murderer on to a concert pianist's wrists. Cast: Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive. Dir.: Karl Freund. Black and white. 68 min.

6:15 PM Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
A newspaperman serves as key witness in a circumstantial murder case. Cast: Peter Lorre, John McGuire, Margaret Tallichet. Dir.: Boris Ingster. Black and white. 64 min.

7:30 PM The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade gets caught up in the murderous search for a priceless statue. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet. Peter Lorre. Gladys George. Lee PatrickDir.: John Huston. Black and white. 101 min.

9:15 PM The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
A meek novelist investigates the mysterious death of a notorious scoundrel. Cast: Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Zachary Scott. Dir.: Jean Negulesco. Black and white. 96 min.

11:00 PM 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
A renegade sea captain uses a pioneering submarine to force peace on the world. Cast: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas. Peter Lorre. Dir.: Richard Fleischer. Color. 127 mins. Letterbox Format

1:15 AM Muscle Beach Party (1964)
The beach gang goes head-to-head with the bodybuilders of a new gym that's interfering with their strip on the sand. Cast: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Luciana Paluzzi. Peter Lorre. Dir.: William Asher. Color. 95 mins. Letterbox Format

Greer Garson movies

14 Thursday

3:00 AM That Forsyte Woman (1949)
An unhappily married woman falls in love with her niece's fiance. Cast: Greer Garson, Errol Flynn, Robert Young. Walter Pidgeon. Janet Leigh. Dir.: Compton Bennett. Color. 113 min.

5:00 AM The Youngest Profession (1943)
Teenage autograph seekers cause trouble at MGM. Cast: Virginia Weidler, Jean Porter, Edward Arnold. Cameos: Greer Garson. Dir.: Edward Buzzell. Black and white. 82 min.

6:30 AM The Valley of Decision (1945)
An Irish housemaid's romance with the bosss' son is complicated by labor disputes in the Pittsburgh mills. Cast: Greer Garson, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore. Dir.: Tay Garnett. Black and white. 119 min.

8:30 AM Mrs. Miniver (1942)
A British family struggles to survive the first days of World War II. Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty. Henry Travers. Dir.: William Wyler. Black and white. 134 min.

11:00 AM The Miniver Story (1950)
A brave family comes together in the face of post-war problems. Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Cathy O'Donnell. Dir.: H.C. Potter. Black and white. 104 min.

1:00 PM When Ladies Meet (1941)
A female novelist doesn't realize her new friend is the wife whose husband she's trying to steal. Cast: Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, Greer Garson. Dir.: Robert Z. Leonard. Black and white. 105 min.

3:00 PM Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939)
A cold-hearted teacher becomes the school favorite when he's thawed by a beautiful young woman. Cast: Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Paul Henreid. Dir.: Sam Wood. Black and white. 114 min.

5:00 PM Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Jane Austen's comic classic about five sisters out to nab husbands in 19th-century England. Cast: Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Edna May Oliver. Maureen O'Sullivan. Marsha Hunt. Dir.: Robert Z. Leonard. Black and white. 118 min.

7:00 PM Random Harvest (1942)
A woman's happiness is threatened when she discovers her husband has been suffering from amnesia. Cast: Greer Garson, Ronald Colman, Susan Peters. Dir.: Mervyn LeRoy. Black and white. 127 min.

9:15 PM Mrs. Parkington (1944)
A lady's maid marries a man whose prospects push her into high society. Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Agnes Moorehead. Dir.: Tay Garnett. Black and white. 124 min.

11:30 PM Julia Misbehaves (1948)
A showgirl returns to her stuffy estranged husband when their daughter gets engaged. Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Elizabeth Taylor. Dir.: Jack Conway. Black and white. 99 min.

1:15 AM Blossoms in the Dust (1941) True-life story of Edna Gladney, who fought for orphans' rights in Texas. Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Marsha Hunt. Dir.: Mervyn LeRoy. Color. 100 min.

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1 Comment to Peter Lorre & Greer Garson Movies: 'Mad Love' & 'The Miniver Story'

  1. R.S.Smith Stan

    As a fan of Peter Lorre, I have a lot of his films. However a number of the earlier films are not available on DVD, and are not shown on TV.This is particularly the case in England. If another day is set aside for his films to be shown I would be interested.