PAYMENT DEFERRED (director: Lothar Mendes; screenwriters: play by Jeffrey Dell/Ernest Vajda/Claudine West; cinematographer: Merritt B. Gerstad; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: William Axt; cast: Charles Laughton (William “Willie” Marble), Maureen O’Sullivan (Winnie Marble), Dorothy Peterson (Annie Marble), Verree Teasdale (Madame Marguerite “Rita” Collins), Ray Milland (James “Jim” Colville Medland), Billy Bevan (Charlie Hammond); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Irving Thalberg; MGM; 1932)
A solid theatrical crime drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A solid theatrical crime drama, even if the dialogue is not that interesting, it’s too bleak to be much fun and it’s shot in a dullish black-and-white. It’s based on Jeffrey Dell’s 1931 play. Charles Laughton, in a showy performance, recreates his stage role of a milquetoast London bank clerk, who would do anything to save his threatened bank position and poverty stricken life. Director Lothar Mendes(“Tampico”/”Flight for Freedom”/”If I Had A Million”) and writers Ernest Vajda and Claudine West keep it engrossing.

A bank clerk in the foreign exchange department for twenty years, Willie Marble (Charles Laughton), lives with his obedient wife Annie (Dorothy Peterson) and needy young adult daughter Winnie (Maureen O’Sullivan). The impoverished family have big debts and Willie’s bank boss threatens to can him unless he settles soon a law suit a client brought against him. Learning inside information on the French franc, Willie feels up against it because he has no money to invest. But the unexpected visit to their humble house from Australia of his nephew Jim Medland (Ray Milland), flashing money, has the desperate Willie poison him with cyanide and steal his money when nephew refuses to invest in his scheme. He then buries him in his garden.

Willie grows increasingly tense, even after his speculation results in a £30,000 windfall, and he sends his wife and daughter on a holiday. He also begins an affair with the creepy Rita Collins (Verree Teasdale), a neighbor who owns a dress shop. Rita blackmails Willie for hush money, and Annie over hears it. Annie is so upset with hubby, that she poisons herself. Willie is sentenced to be hanged for her murder, which explains the title.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”