So Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows and Satin, and Kristina of Speakeasy have teamed up for this blogathon where the objective is as followed:
All you do is pick a movie villain to cover, and then have a ball hailing the hateful and heinous, contemplating the corrupt and evaluating the evil. Villains from absolutely any era, country and genre of film are welcome.My film felon of choice for this, you may ask?
|Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall (1937, dir. Robert Thorpe)|
Why this performance? Well, a few reasons. One, it’s one of several forgotten Oscar-nominated performances that I consider a favorite. And two, I wanted to cover something a little more unconventional.
As was often the case with many stars of the era, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios didn't want Montgomery to take on the role of Danny. He had established himself throughout the 1930s as the debonair leading man. But aside from The Big House seven years earlier, he never got many chances to play against type prior to Night Must Fall.
Danny has the many marks of a sociopath: charming those around him (to get what he wants), slowly gains others' trust (before betraying them), arrogance...things that make Olivia suspicious of him from the moment she meets him. But as the film wears on, it’s clear there’s more to him than he lets on.
Pay attention to him early on when Olivia asks him about Mrs. Shellbrook, the woman whose disappearance kicks off the story. His manner of speaking slowly becomes more agitated as he describes the missing woman. It's this detail that shows something lurking beneath his innocent-looking features.
Olivia becomes more convinced of Danny's wrongdoings, his cheerful demeanor takes on a more stony nature. (Towards the end of the film, you can see the madness flickering in his eyes.) It's the calm rage boiling within him that makes Danny all the more frightening. And when he ultimately snaps, it's chilling.
Yes, Montgomery had the likes of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (which earned him his second and final Oscar nomination) and They Were Expendable (which gave him his first – albeit uncredited – foray as a director) in the decade to come. But it's his work in Night Must Fall that proved his staying power in Hollywood.