Friday, July 1, 2011

DOUBLE INDEMNITY: The Secret Life of Walter Neff

When insouciant insurance salesman Walter Huff came over to the Nirdlinger house to renew Mr. N.’s insurance, he wasn’t in, but his wife was. This dame, Phyllis, was no perky housewife; for one thing, she greeted Walter wearing nothing but towels and a come-hither smile. Before you could say “accident insurance,” she was back with a honey of an anklet and Walter in the palm of her hand. So begins James M. Cain’s 1936 Liberty Magazine serial Double Indemnity (DI), in which Walter and Phyllis become adulterous lovers plotting to murder Nirdlinger and scam Walter’s insurance company. The Liberty serial eventually morphed into a best-selling 1943 novel. Even better, in Billy Wilder’s more-than-capable hands, it became a now-classic 1944 film noir, with the leads getting snappy new names: Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson. In fact, with all due respect to Cain, Wilder’s film version improves on the novel in many ways (thank goodness; it’s hard to read a hard-boiled suspense story about a killer named “Nirdlinger” and keep a straight face!). DI became a cinema classic almost in spite of itself, considering that its dark tone and scandalous subject matter freaked out Hollywood so much that it took 9 years to get DI from the printed page to the big screen!

Dick Powell, who was eager to change his then-crooner image, seemed to be the only leading man in Hollywood who was eager to tackle the role of antihero Walter Neff. But Double Indemnity was a Paramount production, and Powell was under contract to RKO at the time, so he had to wait until Murder, My Sweet to repurpose himself as a big-screen tough guy (and one of the best actors to play Raymond Chandler’s private detective Philip Marlowe, in my opinion).  It was Fred MacMurray, then best known for his breezy light comedy roles, who finally had the guts to take the role of insurance salesman-turned-murderer Walter Neff — but even MacMurray needed convincing at first. None of the other in-demand male stars of the period wanted Barbara Stanwyck’s conniving, money-loving, hubby-offing temptress Phyllis Dietrichson to make a chump out of him on screen. Their loss! It was quite a revelation to me when I saw DI for the first time, watching it on TV in my teens. I’d first seen MacMurray’s work back when he was best known to my generation as a wholesome Disney movie star and the lovable dad of TV’s My Three Sons. When I saw him playing underhanded types in DI, The Caine Mutiny, and another Wilder classic, The Apartment, I was both gobsmacked and impressed with MacMurray’s range. As a result, I was all the more disappointed that MacMurray was never even nominated for an Oscar for any of his stellar performances.

Director/co-screenwriter Wilder’s flair with suspense and black humor works perfectly with Cain’s storytelling style; it even improves on the book (which I read years ago). MacMurray and Stanwyck are dynamite in this, one of the most gleefully, unapologetically black-hearted noirs ever made. Their dialogue, especially in the first half of the movie, contains many of my favorite movie lines of all time — and of course, if I start quoting them all, I’ll pretty much be transcribing most of the script! The chemistry between Stanwyck and MacMurray blazes like the Chicago Fire as the wily, spellbinding Phyllis draws Walter into her web. As Richard Schickel points out in one of the two-disc DVD set’s pair of excellent audio commentaries, Stanwyck’s Phyllis is always reacting in the moment; as a result, you’re never sure whether she means a word she says, making her all the more fascinating. (To paraphrase a line from one of Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown books: “I wouldn’t believe her if she swore she was lying!”) The words of Dashiell Hammett’s cynical Sam Spade to the equally slippery Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon could also apply to the quicksilver Phyllis: she’s good, awful good! Miklós Rózsa’s brassy yet brooding score accents the suspense perfectly. Edith Head’s costumes strike the right notes, too, despite Phyllis’s tacky fashion sense — but it works because Phyllis has a touch of trash about her that Walter seems to be drawn to, and Stanwyck is always mesmerizing no matter what.

Edward G. Robinson is DI’s crabby yet kind-hearted Voice of Reason in his portrayal of Barton Keyes, the Pacific All-Risk Insurance Company’s ace Claims Manager. As Keyes, Robinson is irresistible, with his zeal for detail, the “little man” in his gut giving him indigestion every time an insurance claim seems fishy, and his gruff affection for Walter. Heck, there’s almost more tenderness between Walter and Keyes than there is between Walter and Phyllis! If you ask me, the biggest crime in DI was the failure to nominate either of the male leads for an Oscar, especially scene-stealing Robinson, though at least the Academy was smart enough not to overlook the mesmerizing Stanwyck. For that matter, Robinson was never nominated for an Oscar for any of his superb performances. He was eventually given one of those special career Oscars, or as we like to call them here at Team Bartilucci H.Q., the “Yikes, He’s So Old He Could Croak Any Minute and He Still Hasn’t Gotten An Oscar? *D-OH!*” award.

Keyes, Keyes, he's our man! If he can't nail 'em, no one can!
DI boasts plenty of wonderful character bits, too; really, there isn’t a bum performance in the bunch! Our household’s DI faves include Fortunio Bonanova as Garlopis, whose phony insurance claim Keyes chews to bits “like a slice of rare roast beef;” and Porter Hall (from The Thin Man, among many others) as Jackson from Medford, Oregon, the jovial train traveler who innocently throws a wrench into the murder plot when he turns up on the train’s Observation Car while Walter pretends to be Phyllis’ injured, crutch-bound hubby. (Speaking of the crutches, is that opening credit sequence with the silhouetted, fedora’d figure on crutches one of the coolest credit sequences of all time, or what?) Any fans of The Thing from Another World who might be reading this shouldn’t blink when Walter lets Lola (the poignant Jean Heather) into his office at one point, or you’ll miss Douglas Spencer (with hair!) as Walter’s associate, Lou Schwartz, coming out at the same time.


Femme fatale Phyllis is so crooked,
even doors open the wrong way when she's around!
If you love the movie, you’ll go gaga over the DVD set’s nifty commentary tracks and extras. Among other things, we learn about the censorship issues in bringing Cain’s juicy, lurid tales to the big screen. For example, there were several European film versions of The Postman Always Rings Twice (including Luchino Visconti’s 1943 version, Ossessione, which works very well in its down-to-earth way) before Hollywood brought it to the big screen with John Garfield and Lana Turner in 1946. We’re also told about the different writing/working styles of Wilder and Raymond Chandler, who’d been hired to help adapt the story when Cain was under contract elsewhere, and Wilder’s then-collaborator Charles Brackett nixed the dark material. The experience became a collaboration made in hell for both Chandler and Wilder. For the record, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chandler was mostly to blame, since there are similar stories about him being just as difficult to work with during Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. (Hitch eventually brought in Ben Hecht’s assistant Czenzi Ormonde to finish/polish the SoaT script when Chandler took a hike.)

"Those dirty double-crossers are stealing our schtick!"
Disc 2 contains the 1973 TV movie remake of Double Indemnity (DI2), which is worth watching at least once, if only to appreciate how much better the original is! Wilder’s 1944 version rocks, but I'm afraid Jack Smight’s TV remake sinks like a stone. This isn’t film noir, it’s film blah! Still, both versions are worth a look for anyone who wants to learn how make a spellbinding film noir, because you learn a lot when you watch them back-to-back:

Samantha Eggar & Richard Crenna in the 1973 version. 




1. Just because your leading lady is pretty, it doesn’t automatically mean she’s irresistible enough to lead men to their doom. As the 1973 edition of femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, Samantha Eggar is very pretty. I’ll admit I liked Eggar’s long, lovely red hair better than Barbara Stanwyck’s trashy blonde wig. As a studio boss reportedly griped during the filming of the original DI, “I hire Barbara Stanwyck, and I get George Washington!” Eggar rocked that Lana Turner-style black turban she wears in the murder scene (and the entire black-and-white ensemble, for that matter). My dear late mom, who could rock a stylish hat and a turban like nobody's business, would have been proud! Nevertheless, Stanwyck exudes such sensual magnetism and charisma in the 1944 version, even that wig doesn’t keep Fred MacMurray from becoming putty in her hands. Eggar has been appealing in other roles, but while she’s undeniably pleasant to look at in DI2, I'm afraid she has all the carnal allure of an impatient English nanny; even Mary Poppins seems sexy and edgy compared to Eggar's performance here. Watching her try to be a sinful siren reminded me of the scenes in 1968’s Star! in which Julie Andrews tries to use her prim-and-proper, nigh-operatic tones to belt out torch songs and splashy Broadway production numbers: it’s not her style, and her discomfort shows. As a rule, discomfort isn’t sexy.

2. It don’t mean a thing if the leads ain’t got that zing.  That brings me to Eggar’s delivery; she always sounds vaguely bored and/or annoyed with Richard Crenna’s Walter Neff. In the original, even when Stanwyck was scolding or angry, somehow she seemed all the more fascinating. Her sultry voice, with just a trace of her native Brooklyn accent (from her lips, it sounded good!), was just as seductive as the rest of her. DI2 might be remembered as more than just a cinematic footnote if Eggar and Crenna had even a fraction of the chemistry that sizzles between Stanwyck and MacMurray; the latter was brilliant as a cynical smart-aleck whose street-smarts go out the window under this devious dame’s influence. It just goes to show that in a story like this, the best acting in the world won’t help if the leads don’t have chemistry and charisma.

3. A little moody atmosphere goes a long way in crime movies.  Despite the remake’s attractive locations, especially the Spanish-style accents in the opulent Dietrichson home (though I’d forgotten how prevalent the colors beige, harvest gold, and avocado green were back in the 1970s, not to mention blocky impressionistic artwork), DI2’s L.A. seems like a duller, less exciting place than DI’s original Los Angeles. The remake’s flat 1970s TV lighting and uninspired camera angles can’t hold a candle to the original’s menacing lighting effects and the great John Seitz’s photography, which looked almost like painting with shadows. Ironically, the 1973 update somehow feels more dated than the 1944 original — and if you listen carefully early on, you’ll realize the first film was actually set in 1938! DI2 does try for a bit of startling imagery here and there, though it’s made of cruder stuff than the sleek imagery of the original. For instance, the scene in which wounded, bleeding Walter tapes a confession for Keyes now opens on a close-up of Walter’s blood-stained cigarettes. Billy Goldenberg’s piano-and-strings music is somber enough, though it certainly won’t make you forget Miklós Rózsa’s powerful, brassy yet tender score for the original.

Kick the habit: Don't smoke bloodstained cigarettes!
Apart from Eggar’s forgettable performance, the good cast helps make DI2 fairly watchable, though far from a must-see except for nit-picky completists like me. As Walter Neff, Richard Crenna makes an amiable dupe who finds himself in over his head, though he doesn’t have MacMurray’s balance of insouciance and intensity (maybe Crenna should’ve worn a fedora :-)). Ironically, Crenna later played the rich husband-turned-murder victim in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 noir Body Heat. Interesting note for vintage TV fans: when Crenna’s voice is cracking from the pain of his gunshot wounds during his confession-by-dictaphone, he often sounds distractingly like he did as a young man on the 1950s TV show Our Miss Brooks. John Fiedler and his “Piglet” voice suit Jackson-from-Medford delightfully. Lee J. Cobb’s portrayal of Barton Keyes is quite good, but also quite different from Edward G. Robinson’s approach. Unlike the energy and fighting spirit of Robinson’s performance, Cobb’s Keyes seems older and wearier. When he talks about how the “little man inside” upsets his stomach when he senses a phony claim, you really do get the feeling he’s about to throw up any minute! Don’t get me wrong, though; Cobb’s approach is quite effective in the context of the remake, especially since the remake as a whole has a lot less snap, crackle, and pop than the original. No wonder Cobb/Keyes has indigestion; maybe the poor man needs a nice soothing bowl of Rice Krispies. With a script by Steven Bochco and TV crime-show veteran Smight directing (he also did a nice job with theatrical suspensers Harper, Kaleidoscope, and No Way to Treat a Lady), you’d think DI2 would still be worth watching, but despite the occasional gripping moment, this ’70s show is still just polyester while the original is pure silk.
James M. Cain by Rick Geary
   
Here's a special treat: Double Indemnity bloopers!

23 comments:

  1. Hi - I enjoyed your post. DI is a fascinating movie that really made Noir current. The history of its writing is fascinating as well. To my mind at least, it feels like Chandler wrote a lot of the dialogue - the exchanges have something of his vibrancy about them. Though of course you can never be sure. Wilder and Chandler didn't get on and the latter, who'd never written a film before, complained about his partner to the studio. Wilder, according to Chandler, was to bossy, waved his cane around to much and spoke to girls on the phone for too long.

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  2. Sometimes I'll spend hours watching movies just looking for Douglas Spencer!

    Paramount kept their folks busy. The same year we can also see Jean Heather (I always want to call her Heather Jean), Porter Hall and Fortunio Bonanova in "Going My Way".

    I agree that Chandler's influence improved Cain's novel, at least as far as making it cinematic. The bit with the sharks and all is just - well, I don't know what it is - maybe, the stuff of nightmares.

    I appreciate the way you compared the classic to the TV movie which I know I saw back then, but it seems to have evaporated upon viewing.

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  3. Caftan Woman, thanks so much! I'm pleased as punch that you not only enjoyed my DOUBLE INDEMNITY blog post, but that you're a fellow Douglas Spencer fan -- further proof that you have superb taste along with your writing talent and other sterling qualities! :-)

    Glad to hear you agree about the improvements in the film version of DI. I felt that the ending's surreal, nightmarish elements, while striking, seemed to belong in an entirely different novel! Is that that they mean by "jumping the shark"? :-)

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  4. twilliams81, thanks for your positive comments on my DOUBLE INDEMNITY post! Yes, I can see your point about the Chandleresque vibrancy of the movie's dialogue. Isn't it interesting how often we hear about now-classic films that were a challenge to make at the time because the writers and/or directors didn't get along? Some things are just meant to me, it seems. Thanks again for joining in the conversation; drop by any time!

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  5. Like so many, I saw the parodies of a lot of these films long before I saw the originals. Here's the parody that they did of Double Indemnity on the Carol Burnett show -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3sPzZpMTs4

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  6. I have not seen the remake of one of my favorite murder mysteries of all time. You have peaked my interest.

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  7. You rock! I loved this post! There is so much to DI and so much that bubbles beneath the surface. Fantastic!

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  8. Dawn, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the 1973 TV remake once you've had an opportunity to watch it -- and I'm betting you'll agree that the original DOUBLE INDEMNITY film is still the champ! :-) Thanks for joining in the conversation!

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  9. FlickChick, thanks for your enthusiastic praise! You're absolutely right, there really is so much to DI; such rich characterization and atmosphere in addition to the suspense, smart and snappy dialogue, and great performances. How can a movie about such bad people be so irresistably good? :-)

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  10. Our dear friend and fellow writer Michael Wolff (SHAMELESS PLUG FOR A TALENTED PAL ALERT...Read Michael's romantic comedy novel COSIMO'S RAVEN if you haven't already -- you'll love it!...END SHAMELESS PLUG FOR A TALENTED PAL ALERT) couldn't reply via Blogger (what's up with Blogger these days?! Try Mozilla Firefox). I'm posting Michael's comment here for your convenience. Take it away, Michael!

    "Dorian,

    Mark me down as another of the generation who grew up always thinking of Fred MacMurray as the perennial good guy of My Three Sons and numerous Walt Disney films, and then became mondo surprised when I grew a bit older and started seeing him as a slimeball in other performances. Talk about your balancing Karma routines!

    But my generation also believed that Barbara Stanwyck had also always been the tough but compassionate matriarch of the Barkeley Ranch in The Big Valley. I still can't watch Double Indemnity without thinking "what would Richard Long say?" I also keep watching Stanwyck in this picture and thinking of a line Daffy Duck had in "The Super Snooper": "You EVIL woman, you!"

    (In fact, were I producing cartoons for WB back in those days, I would've thrown in a scene where Stanwyck meets Lana Turner and mutters: "Beat it, Turner. I'm working this side of the street.")

    There is film noir . . . and then there is film noir so obviously delicious that it makes you drool. Double Indemnity is a clear example of the latter, almost belonging in a subgenre by itself. As Vinnie so aptly pointed out, it's a film which easily opens itself up to that special sort of parody which also works as an homage (the same way a shot of a flock of birds nesting on a playground jungle gym works). How many ordinary housewives have wished they could put on a pair of OVERLY FRICKIN' OBVIOUS "HEY, LOOK AT ME. I'M PLOTTING AGAINST MY HUSBAND" dark glasses and go wander through a grocery store to chat with their accomplice/lover over the tops of the aisle shelves (and is this why contemporary supermarkets have their shelves so high? Has the domestic murder rate plummeted as a result?).

    One final note about Edward G. Robinson and his "special career Oscar". After the investigation is closed on why Angela Lansbury always seems to show up wherever a murder occurs, can we get around to researching why people seem to drop dead soon after they receive a "Special Career Oscar"?"

    Thank you for your wonderful comments, Michael! As for the mortality rate of Special Career Oscar winners, let's be encouraged by the likes of Peter O'Toole and Kirk Douglas -- not to put the whammy on it! :-)

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  11. Yet another excellent review, Dorian. You know, I can see Dick Powell as Walter, though I thought Fred MacMurray was very good in the role. But no one could play a "bad girl" as well as Barbara Stanwyck. She's so convincing that Walter's fate is scripted from their first meeting. One can easily see how the alluring Phyllis (I liked Barbara as a blonde) could lure a decent-enough chap like Walter into committing murder. I watched this again last year and, this time around, appreciated just how good Edward G. Robinson was as "the Voice of Reason" (love your description). I don't recall seeing the TV remake, though I saw just about every TV-movie made in that time period. But Samanatha Eggar as Phyllis--yuck!

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  12. Rick, many thanks for your glowing review of my blog post! Glad you liked my "Voice of Reason" description of Keyes, too; he's one of my favorite fictional characters! :-)

    While I don't think I've ever seen a Barbara Stanwyck performance I didn't like, I must agree that she was the perfect blonde "bad girl" in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. She got several Oscar nominations, but never won one in competition, which is a damn shame.

    "But Samantha Eggar as Phyllis -- yuck!" Rick, I couldn't have said it better myself! No offense meant to Ms. Eggar as a human being, you understand.... :-) Thanks for joining the conversation; always nice to have you drop by!

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  13. Dorian, another triumph, wonderful, fantastic --but is it possible you did not mention THAT WIG?! Best femme fatale on screen, WORST hair ever -- only Stanwyck could pull that off.

    It was really hard for me to take Fred seriously after having known him only through My Three Sons. He is very good, but it took me a while to see that when I was younger. Edward G. was just what you said -- perfect, and your assessment of the feelings between he and Walter was right on. Affection was never a part of Fred and Barbara's characters!

    Since you brought it up, I have to say I think Dick Powell would have been a better Walter. He was just wonderful as Marlowe. Of course, Spade and Bridget in Maltese Falcon are my top pick for noir couple.

    I saw the remake -- I must have blocked a lot of it out. Stinko, with only Lee J. Cobb worth watching. I probably didn't give it enough of a chance, but P U was my reaction! LOL!

    I really loved this article -- interesting, funny, your usual style. And you are so right -in the 30's, I don't think the name Nirdlinger meant what it does to us now -- too funny!~

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  14. Becky, thanks a million for all your praise; you're good for my fragile little ego, bless you! :-) You'll notice I waited until the review of the 1973 version of DI to mention the otherwise awesome Stanwyck's awful wig, to try to soften the blow. :-) But as you said, it's a testament to the Power of Stanwyck that she could still pull off her femme fatale role even with that "George Washington" wig. THAT, I would have liked to LITERALLY pull off! :-)

    All this talk of Dick Powell (not to be confused with William Powell -- but wouldn't you like to have seen those two in a movie together?) has me wanting to blog about his breakthrough tough-guy role as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in 1944's MURDER, MY SWEET in the not-too-distant future! Watch this space! :-)

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  15. I should have known you would talk about the hair! I probably didn't catch it because I gingerly ran through the remake part (you frightened me with bad memories!) LOL!

    I always thought it was so strange that cute little crooner Powell of the 30's became such a good rough detective type...

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  16. Oh, and Becky: Brigid O'Shaugnessy and Sam Spade are my top noir couple choice, too, with the Howard Hawks version of THE BIG SLEEP with Philip Marlowe and Vivian Rutledge running a close second! :-)

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  17. Dorian,

    What a pleasure to read such an insightful and funny article on what many, myself included, consider one of the greatest, if not the greatest, film noir ever. A brilliant script, sharp direction and Stanwyck and MacMurray. My first exposure to MacMurray was in MY THREE SONS and frankly, he seemed just dull. However, after watching him in DI, that veneer of dullness that seem to be there is just that, underneath is pure evil. He went on to prove it again and again in other films like PUSHOVER and THE APARTMENT. He makes for a great villian. Stanwyck is pure sexual magnetism in that white sweater and in spite of the damn wig! And Eddie G., well he never gives a bad performance, he's always a joy.

    I remember seeing the TVM with Eaggar and Crenna when it first came out and was so disappointed. The same story yet dull direction and unalluring actors. It proves you can have a great script and still make a lousy movie.

    John

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  18. John, I'm delighted that you enjoyed my DOUBLE INDEMNITY article as much as you enjoyed the movie itself -- thank you so much for your praise!

    I like your description of Fred MacMurray in DI: "...that veneer of dullness that seems to be there is just that, underneath is pure evil." It's always the supposedly nice, dull guys you have to watch out for! :-)

    With all that talent and all those wonderful shadings and nuances, it's no wonder DI is one of my favorite films of all time. Thanks for joining in the conversation, John; drop by TotED any time!

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  19. Having trouble posting comments - as usual, Dorian. Switched to Firefox for now though I don't like what it does to my blog. But for you, I'll do anything. Ha! At least temporarily.

    I was laughing while reading your post - the usual. I wish you'd write a book filled with all your reviews. It would be a howl and would help dispel the tedium of other 'oh so serious' film books.

    It's hard for me to imagine Richard Crenna filled with lust for anyone or anything. Since Crenna was and always would be the squeaky voiced kid on OUR MISS BROOKS. Was it "Walter....Walter Denton!?" Something like that. I just never got over it. I always kept looking for that little felt beanie.

    Too, he always reminded me of Monte Markham. Or is it the other way around? Probably. Two men who I simply could never accept as having lust coursing through their veins.

    Fred MacMurray was another. At least until DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Then he broke out in lust, lust, and more lust. Lust-A-Palooza lust. You kind of watch this and go: Aha! I never knew you had it in you, Fred!

    Barbara Stanwyck always seemed a bit crazed to me in this. But then, she usually did. For me she always looked as if she had a ticking time bomb about to go off in her libido. I liked her a lot. She was clever.

    But I admit I haven't seen this movie in ages. So I thank you for bringing it all back to me.

    I used to get DOUBLE INDEMNITY mixed up with THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE since it is, with tweaks here and there, essentially the same story. And I always thought Lana Turner, vapid and evil, had it over Stanwyck's more conniving presence. But that's probably just me.

    But MacMurray, boy, did he open my eyes in DI.

    He was the perfect fool of a man in this. In a way he gave me the creeps, but in a way I understood his rather easy stroll to the dark side. Poor schlemiel.

    I'm wondering if the film I most like him in, ABOVE SUSPICION, was done around this time. I'll have to check. Here he held his own against Joan Crawford who plays a very sympathetic role - believe it or not. AND she's wonderful. MacMurray fights the Nazis here - in the embodiment of Basil Rathbone as an evil sneering upper-class German National Socialist who comes to a bad end. Terrific film. Not easy to find, though.

    Edward G. Robinson - hard to believe he never got an Oscar for his acting. I think, possibly, he just made it look too easy. Those types rarely get Oscars.

    Well, also as usual, I've run on too long. I'll stop now and go have breakfast. Thanks for another great post, Dorian. :)

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  20. Yvette, I'm most grateful that you went to the trouble of switching to Mozilla Firefox just to keep up with TotED! :-) Sorry for the inconvenience, but thanks for going out of your way to follow my blathering blog posts!

    Aw, you'll turn my pretty head -- thanks for your copious praise of my DI review! I'd love to publish a book of my movie reviews someday. Maybe there will be a market for it if/when my comedy-thriller novel THE PARANOIA CLUB is published and proves to be popular (gotta polish more chapters before I start peddling the manuscript, though). If you're gonna dream, dream big, I say! :-)

    When you mentioned Richard Crenna as Walter Denton (NOT Walter Neff! :-)) on OUR MISS BROOKS, I looked up the cast list out of curiosity. I was pleasantly surprised that one of the cast members was Jesslyn Fax as Mrs. Angela Nestor (apparently she'd replaced one Nana Bryant from the previous cast). I was more familiar with Fax from her role as the sculptress in Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW. Small world, huh? Funny you should mention Monte Markham, since he played one of my favorite characters, PERRY MASON, on a short-lived TV remake. Give me the classic Raymond Burr version any time! But I digress....

    It's easy to confuse DOUBLE INDEMNITY with THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, since they're both written by James M. Cain and have fairly similar themes. But yes, I agree with you about Robinson, and Fred MacMurray's stroll on the dark side as well. Now I'd like to watch ABOVE SUSPICION, too, if I come across it!

    As always, Yvette, thanks for dropping by. Your smart and snappy fun facts and japery are always welcome here!

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  21. Hey, fellow TotED friends, please extend a warm welcome to our newest Followers, the Spanish-language movie blog Gosta/Cabelo, and Ponch! If you haven't already been following these talented bloggers, here are the links so you can enjoy their work:

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  22. Dorian,
    I saw Double Indemnity for the first time when I was about 11 or 12 and it was also my first introduction into early suspense films, Stanwyck and MacMurray. Needless to say I became a huge fan of the two actors and any suspense/mystery I can get my hands on.

    Of course I've seen DI several times since and it's just as good each time I revisit it.

    I remember a few yrs ago while discussing old films wit co-workers bringing up DI which nobody was familiar with so I mentioned Stanwyck and MacMurray which got the response..."Oh, from The Big Valley and My Three Sons" Oy Vey! I guess it takes patience and the realization that some people just can't be converted into cinaphiles in a day or two.

    I had to laugh at your wig comment. That wig was a hot mess. Thanks for writing another brilliant review of one of my favorite films while infusing your fun personality and sense of humor into it. (Two things that make your reviews a must read!)
    Page

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  23. Page, I know what you mean, since my own very first exposure to Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck involved watching them on MY THREE SONS and THE BIG VALLEY as a kid! It's amazing how many of us grownup classic movie fans learned about our favorite movie icons backwards, getting to know them from TV shows and then being gobsmacked to discover what amazing actors they were in classic movies that couldn't have been more different from those shows! "Oy Vey," indeed! :-) And don't get me (and our dear comrade Becky) started on that hilarious "hot mess" wig!

    I humbly and delightedly thank you for your rave review of my DI blog post, Page, and I'm glad you're enjoying my eccentric sense of humor. I can't help it; I come from a family of wiseacres! :-) Always happy to have you join in the conversation here at TotED, and I look forward to seeing what hilarity is in store for us with your next MY LOVE OF OLD HOLLYWOOD blog post!

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