Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Payment Deferred (1932) - Money Corrupts

Payment Deferred: Charles Laughton Hams it Up

Charles Laughton Payment Deferred 1932
"Payment Deferred" (1932).

In "Payment Deferred" (1932), directed by Lothar Mendes for MGM, timid bank clerk William Marbles comes into a fortune, which complicates his life tremendously. Unfortunately for Marbles, it is how he came into this fortune that proves to be his downfall.

Laughton O'Sullivan and Milland Payment Deferred 1932
Marbles has plans for his nephew, played by Ray Milland.

In this adaptation of the novel, Charles Laughton once again demonstrates his extraordinary range by playing a simple bank clerk, beset by financial problems, who finds a novel way out of his troubles. Along the way, he finds that having money brings its own problems, sometimes worse ones than beset the poor.

Maureen O'Sullivan Payment Deferred 1932
Maureen O'Sullivan could get away with this in 1932, but not for long - the Hayes Commission already was on the way.

This is a simple film, and one can see traces of its stage origins throughout. The acting, though, is quite marvelous. Laughton obviously learned the character well after playing it on the stage, and he brings to life the frustration and desperation of a man living on the edge. His transformation from mild-mannered clerk to weak-willed philanderer is accomplished effortlessly and with great attention to detail. His handling of a glass while he dispatches his long-lost nephew is absolutely masterful.

Charles Laughton and family Payment Deferred 1932
The happy little family.

The other performers are mostly forgettable, the only standouts being Ray Milland in a small role as the nephew, Dorothy Peterson as Marbles' wife, and Maureen O'Sullivan as Laughton's daughter. Note that the Hayes Code was not in full effect yet, so Sullivan manages a quick gratuitous shot in her underwear near the beginning of the film. People weren't any different back then, and many liked a quick flash of skin by a pretty girl, but they soon would be denied even that small pleasure at the movies.

In sum, "Payment Deferred" is a fine character study by Laughton, the preeminent master at bringing eccentric characters to life.

Below you can watch an excerpt from "Payment Deferred."


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