theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jean Negulesco|
|Produced by||Wolfgang Reinhardt|
|Written by|| John Huston |
|Starring|| Sydney Greenstreet |
|Music by||Adolph Deutsch|
|Edited by||George Amy|
Three Strangers is a 1946 American film noir crime drama directed by Jean Negulesco, written by John Huston and Howard Koch, starring Sydney Greenstreet, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Peter Lorre, and featuring Joan Lorring and Alan Napier.
Crystal Shackleford (Geraldine Fitzgerald) lures two strangers, solicitor Jerome K. Arbutny (Sydney Greenstreet) and charming and erudite drunkard Johnny West (Peter Lorre) to her London flat on Chinese New Year in 1938 because of her belief that if three strangers make the same wish to an idol of Kwan Yin, Chinese goddess of fortune and destiny, the wish will be granted. Since money will make their dreams come true, the three go in on a sweepstakes ticket for the Grand National horse race together and agree that they will not sell the ticket if it is chosen, but will hold on to it until the race is run. Shackleford would use the money to try to win her estranged husband back, Arbutny to smooth the way for his selection to the prestigious Barrister's Club, and Johnny to buy a bar and live in it.
The stories of the three strangers are revealed. Shackleford's husband David (Alan Napier) moved to Canada and fell in love with Janet Elliott (Marjorie Riordan). He returns, just after Johnny and Arbutny take their leave of Crystal, and demands a divorce, but she refuses. She sees to it that he loses a promotion. She also lies to Janet, telling her that David still loves her and that she is pregnant. The trusting woman believes her and returns to Canada.
With the help of an adoring Icey Crane (Joan Lorring), Johnny has been hiding out after his drunken participation in a botched robbery that resulted in the death of a policeman. Icey commits perjury in order to provide an alibi for the murderer and ringleader, Bertram Fallon (Robert Shayne). When a second witness is discredited, Fallon confesses to the robbery but blames the murder on West and the third man involved, Timothy Delaney, who is nicknamed Gabby (Peter Whitney). Johnny is caught and sentenced to death, but Gabby finds Fallon on his way to prison and stabs him. As he dies in the railway carriage, Fallon clears Johnny.
Arbutny has been speculating in stocks with money from the trust fund of Lady Rhea Belladon (Rosalind Ivan), an eccentric widow who believes she can talk with her dead husband. When the stock falls and his margin is called, a desperate Arbutny proposes to Lady Belladon. After consulting with her dead husband, she turns him down. Worse, she says that Lord Belladon wants to have the books checked. Arbutny is about to shoot himself when he sees in a newspaper that the sweepstakes ticket has drawn the favorite in the Grand National.
The three strangers converge on Crystal's flat. Arbutny wants to sell his share of the ticket immediately so he can replace the funds he stole before his crime can be uncovered. Johnny is willing, but Shackleford is adamant that they stick to their original agreement. Arbutny becomes enraged and accidentally kills her with her statue of Kwan Yin. Ironically, they hear on the radio that their horse wins. Johnny points out to Arbutny that the winning ticket has to be destroyed because their agreement and signatures on it would provide a motive for Crystal's murder. They leave the flat, but Arbutny is overcome by guilt, and panics and runs out into the middle of the busy street. He stops traffic and attracts a crowd, including a policeman, to whom Arbutny confesses the murder.
Johnny returns to the pub, where Icey finds him. Content with her, he sets the ticket on fire.
Three Strangers was in production from early January to mid-February 1945. Its original title was Three Men and a Girl, [ citation needed ]and Bette Davis and George Brent were originally to be the leads. At one point, the story was considered for a sequel of sorts to The Maltese Falcon , and Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor were to star. However, according to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. discovered the rights to the characters had reverted to Dashiell Hammett. Because Warners had owned the rights since 1937, actors considered for the role of "Jerome K. Arbutny" were Lionel Atwill, Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter and Claude Rains, while Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis were considered to play "Crystal Shackelford". For the third starring role, that of "Johnny West," Errol Flynn, David Niven, Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Robert Montgomery were considered. Director Jean Negulesco was a fan of Lorre's work and fought hard to give him the role.
John Huston was inspired to write the story by a wooden figure he bought in an antique shop while working in London. Later, events at a party in his flat suggested to Huston the story of three strangers sharing a sweepstakes ticket. Alfred Hitchcock was at the gathering, and liked the story when Huston told it to him, but nothing came of it. Huston returned to Hollywood, and Warners bought the treatment in 1937. Huston went on to write the script with his friend Howard Koch. When the film finally went into production, Huston was not available to direct it, because he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
Two American release dates for Three Strangers can be found: 28 January 1946and 16 February 1946. It's possible that the first date is the premiere, and the later one the actual date of general release.
In its 1946 review, Variety wrote:
Greenstreet overplays to some extent as the attorney who has raided a trust fund, but he still does a good job. Lorre is tops as a drunk who gets involved in a murder of which he's innocent, while Fitzgerald rates as the victim.
Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote that same year:
[T]he action [...] is full-bodied melodrama of a shrewd and sophisticated sort. Never so far away from reason that it is wholly incredible but obviously manufactured fiction, it makes a tolerably tantalizing show, reaching some points of fascination in a few of its critical scenes.
According to Warner Bros. records, the film earned $1,033,000 in the U.S. and $614,000 in other markets.
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American film and stage actor. His performances in Classical Hollywood cinema films made him an American cultural icon. In 1999, the American Film Institute selected Bogart as the greatest male star of classic American cinema.
Peter Lorre was a Hungarian-American character actor of Jewish descent. Lorre began his stage career in Vienna before moving to Germany where he worked first on the stage, then in film in Berlin in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Lorre caused an international sensation in the German film M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang, in which he portrayed a serial killer who preys on little girls.
The Blue Dahlia is a 1946 American crime film and film noir, directed by George Marshall based on an original screenplay by Raymond Chandler. The film stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. It was Chandler's first original screenplay.
Sydney Hughes Greenstreet was a British-American actor. While he did not begin his career in films until the age of 61, he had a run of significant motion pictures in a Hollywood career lasting through the 1940s. Greenstreet is best remembered for his Warner Bros. films with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, which include The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), and Passage to Marseille (1944). Greenstreet portrayed Nero Wolfe on radio during 1950 and 1951. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1925.
Jean Negulesco was a Romanian-American film director and screenwriter. He first gained notice for his film noirs and later made such notable films as Johnny Belinda (1948), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Titanic (1953), and Three Coins in the Fountain (1954).
The Mask of Dimitrios is a 1944 American film noir directed by Jean Negulesco and written by Frank Gruber, based on the 1939 novel of the same name written by Eric Ambler.
Stranger on the Third Floor is a 1940 American film noir directed by Boris Ingster and starring Peter Lorre, John McGuire, and Margaret Tallichet, and featuring Elisha Cook Jr.. It was written by Frank Partos. Modern research has shown that Nathanael West wrote the final version of the screenplay, but was uncredited.
Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1944 American black comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant. It was based on Joseph Kesselring's 1941 play, Arsenic and Old Lace. The script adaptation was written by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. The contract with the play’s producers stipulated that the film would not be released until the Broadway run ended. The original planned release date was September 30, 1942. The play was a tremendous hit, running for three and a half years, so the film was not released until 1944. The lead role of Mortimer Brewster was originally intended for Bob Hope, but he could not be released from his contract with Paramount Pictures. Capra had also approached Jack Benny and Ronald Reagan before learning that Grant would accept the role. On the Broadway stage, Boris Karloff played Jonathan Brewster, who is said to "look like Boris Karloff". According to TCM, Karloff, who gave permission for the use of his name in the film, remained in the play to appease the producers, who were afraid of what stripping the play of all its primary cast would do to ticket sales. Raymond Massey took Karloff’s place on screen. The film's supporting cast also features Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton, and Peter Lorre.
Elisha Vanslyck Cook Jr. was an American stage, film and television character actor who often specialized in roles as "cowardly villains and neurotics". He is perhaps best remembered for his portrayal of Wilmer in the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon and the futile efforts made by his character to intimidate Sam Spade in the film. Cook's acting career spanned more than 60 years, with roles in productions including The Big Sleep, Shane, The Killing, House on Haunted Hill, and Rosemary's Baby.
The Blue Gardenia is a 1953 film noir directed by Fritz Lang and starring Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, and Ann Sothern. It is based on a novella by Vera Caspary. An independent production distributed by Warner Bros., The Blue Gardenia - a cynical take on press coverage of a sensational murder case - was the first installment of Lang's "newspaper noir" movie trio, being followed in 1956 by both While the City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. The song "Blue Gardenia" was written by Bob Russell and Lester Lee and arranged by Nelson Riddle. The director of cinematography for The Blue Gardenia was RKO regular Nicholas Musuraca, then working at Warner Brothers.
Black Angel is a 1946 American film noir crime film directed by Roy William Neill and starring Dan Duryea, June Vincent and Peter Lorre.
The Chase is a 1946 American film noir directed by Arthur Ripley. The screenplay by Philip Yordan is based on Cornell Woolrich's 1944 novel The Black Path of Fear.
Flamingo Road is a 1949 American film noir drama directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet and David Brian. The screenplay by Robert Wilder was based on a 1946 play written by Wilder and his wife, Sally, which was based on Robert Wilder's 1942 novel of the same name.
Nobody Lives Forever is a 1946 American crime film noir directed by Jean Negulesco and based on the novel I Wasn't Born Yesterday by W. R. Burnett. It stars John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald and features Walter Brennan, Faye Emerson, George Coulouris and George Tobias.
Conflict is a 1945 American black-and-white suspense film noir made by Warner Brothers. It was directed by Curtis Bernhardt, produced by William Jacobs from a screenplay by Arthur T. Horman and Dwight Taylor, based on the story The Pentacle by Alfred Neumann and Robert Siodmak. It starred Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith, and Sydney Greenstreet. The film is the only pairing of Bogart and Greenstreet where Bogart, rather than Greenstreet, is the villain or corrupt character. There's also a cameo appearance of the Maltese Falcon statue.
The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 film noir directed and scripted by John Huston in his directorial debut, based on the 1930 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. It stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam Spade and Mary Astor as his femme fatale client. Gladys George, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet co-star, with the latter appearing in his film debut. The story follows a San Francisco private detective and his dealings with three unscrupulous adventurers, all of whom are competing to obtain a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.
The Verdict is a 1946 American film noir mystery drama directed by Don Siegel and written by Peter Milne, loosely based on Israel Zangwill's novel The Big Bow Mystery (1892). It stars Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in one of their nine film pairings, as well as Joan Lorring and George Coulouris. The Verdict was Siegel's first full-length feature film.
Background to Danger is a 1943 World War II spy film starring George Raft and featuring Brenda Marshall, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre.
Across the Pacific is a 1942 American spy film set on the eve of the entry of the United States into World War II. The film was directed first by John Huston, then by Vincent Sherman after Huston joined the United States Army Signal Corps. It stars Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet. Despite the title, the action never progresses across the Pacific, concluding in Panama. The original script portrayed an attempt to avert a Japanese plan to invade Pearl Harbor. When the real-life attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, production was shut down for three months, resuming on March 2, 1942, with a revised script changing the target to Panama.
The Conspirators is a 1944 American Film-noir, World War II, drama, spy film, thriller directed by Jean Negulesco. The film stars Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid, features Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in supporting roles and a cameo of Aurora Miranda singing a Fado. The Conspirators reunites several performers who appeared in Casablanca (1942).