Tuesday, July 19, 2011
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
I really enjoyed posting two straight weeks of blogs on Hollywood films from the 1930's, and so for the 1940's I'm going to up the ante and try for three weeks worth. Looking at titles I have left from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, this shouldn't be a problem. As before, I’ll list my expectations for each film going in and state whether these expectations are reached or not. And I’ll once again give each film my Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award because there was such a bounty of great supporting performers from this period and I just like doing it.
Double Indemnity (1944)
Expectations: Another in the category of it’s been many years since I’ve seen it, but remember it as being one of the best of the film noirs.
After Viewing: Billy Wilders’ film based on the James M Cain book is considered by many the first film noir. The plot is about an insurance man (Fred MacMurray) who gets involved with an unhappy young wife (Barbara Stanwyck) and they both plot to do away with her husband and collect the life insurance money. I still really like Double Indemnity, I’m happy to say. Stanwyck is good and the usually likeable MacMurray is even more effective in this change of pace role. The one draw back, which has also been pointed out by others, is the “lack of heat” between the lovers MacMurray and Stanwyck.* They kiss a little and occasionally change positions on the sofa during scene breaks. I honestly can’t tell if they just had sex or were about to play a game of Parcheesi. The major problem, of course, stems from the censorship of the era. I’ve mentioned before that I thought censorship may have actually helped some films from this era as it forced filmmakers to be more creative. In this case, I think if hurt. However, this is a small complaint to a film that would still be on my favorite 100 films of all-time if I ever take the time to compile such a list.** The setting, music, tone, direction and story are all first class in my book.***
And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Edward G. Robinson. MacMurray and Stanwyck are impressive in their roles as lovers, but Robinson as the Insurance claims adjuster absolutely steals this movie in every scene he is in. When he goes on and on about statistics on suicides, he’s really fun to watch (I'm not kidding!).
And the first James M. Cain cuckold award goes to…Tom Powers as Stanwyck’s doomed husband. Cheated on and murdered. And not as good a role as Cecil Kellaway had in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Sorry, Tom.
*For more heat of course, you could just watch Body Heat.
** Still haven’t taken the time to compile such a list
***Book for sale in your theater lobby.