This is a much-prized photograph of one of our favorite actors — Sydney Greenstreet. You know, “the fat man” in his debut feature, 1941’s The Maltese Falcon.
This photograph was taken from The Donald Gordon Collection, named for our late friend who as a young actor who found himself under contract at Columbia Pictures during World War II. The collection was bequeathed to us after his death. (By the way, Donald had a tiny, non-speaking role in at least one of Greenstreet’s pictures.)
This particular shot, showing Greenstreet emerging from a no-doubt hearty lunch at the Brown Derby, is typical of those in the rest of DG Collection. Donald made friends easily, and loved photographing his newfound pals (along, often, with himself) in informal settings.
What make the DG Collection especially interesting to us is that the subjects pictured so casually were some of the most recognizable faces in classic Hollywood.
As for the impact of Greenstreet’s emergence as a screen actor in The Maltese Falcon, author-critic David Thomson writes: It has always been the convention of the film industry to ‘introduce’ potent new players. But few introductions have been as dramatic as that of Greenstreet: monstrous, over sixty, hostile and so clearly familiar with every wrinkle in the world’s corruption.
Where could such bulk have been hiding? How would audiences feel less than cheated that he had been withheld for so long?
How much do you known about “the fat man?” Let’s get to our Monday Quiz to find out. Questions today, answers tomorrow. Here we go:
1) Question: Greenstreet was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as “the fat man” in The Maltese Falcon. He did not win the Oscar. Which one of the following did? a) Walter Brennan; b) Charles Coburn; c) James Gleason; or d) Donald Crisp.
2) Question: Just how old was Greenstreet when he made his Hollywood film debut? a) 49; b) 61; c) 57; or d) 59.
3) Question: How many years had Greenstreet toiled as a stage actor before arriving in Hollywood? a) 5; b) 20; c) 13; or d) 40.
4) Question: Which of the following worked with Greenstreet in a Broadway stage production of a highly successful drama? a) Montgomery Clift; b) Phyllis Thaxter; c) Alfred Lunt; or d) Thomas Gomez. (Editor’s warning: this is a trick question so be careful.)
5) Question: Greenstreet’s onscreen partnership with Peter Lorre covered how many movie titles? a) 9; b) 5; c) 12; or d) 6.
6) Question: Greenstreet gets slapped by which of the following in 1949’s Flamingo Road? a) Joan Bennett; b) Joan Fontaine; c) Joan Crawford; or d) Joan Collins.
7) Question: Greenstreet never married? a) True; or b) False?
8) Question: Greenstreet appeared with Bogie, Ingrid Bergman and Lorre in 1942’s Casablanca, but if you blinked a few times you may have missed him. What role did he play? a) a sleazy drug dealer; b) a British officer; c) a secret Nazi agent; or d) a seen-it-all nightclub owner who has his eyes on Rick’s Cafe Americain?
9) Question: Greenstreet’s character in 1942’s Across The Pacific would have a hard time passing a political correctness test today. Why? a) The character makes defamatory cracks about Asians; b) American Indians are patronized; c) China and the Chinese are insulted; or d) Italians and French are demonized.
10) Question: In which of his movies did Greenstreet say, “you know, I’ve always been just an easy-going, friendly fat old man?” a) 1949’s Malaya; b) 1946’s Three Strangers; c) 1943’s Backround to Danger or d) 1949’s Flamingo Road.