doubleLast Heartthrob Chapter Six:
He Still Had an Out Extras

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Movie: Double Indemnity (1944)

In this episode of Last Heartthrob two characters Sternwood misses bumping into Laurel Gray at a screening of Double Indemnity and goes to seek her out. She questions his motive. So does Forbes.

"Double Indemnity is the standard against which other film noirs and thrillers are judged, but it’s not just interesting in an academic sense. The film’s themes of betrayal, murder, and lust don’t go out of style, and this film still sucks you in seventy years after it was made. It somehow strikes a weird balance between highly stylized, very 'of-its-time' but also timeless, which not many films manage." - Cameron, The Blonde at the Film a fresh look at old films


Cameron quotes Carl Freedman:"Though the genre is too varied and complex for any particular film to be completely typical, it would be difficult to name another that comes closer to providing a paradigm for noir" ("The End of Work: From Double Indemnity to Body Heat" in Neo-Noir). Billy Wilder brought the German expressionist style. James M. Cain's fiction stories were hugely influential in the genre (Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice). Raymond Chandler was the undisputed master of hard-boiled dialogue.What is the most memorable moment in Double Indemnity? Is it visual, plot-driven, or dialogue?

Cameron writes: "Today, Stanwyck's Phyllis is considered to be one of the greatest villains and femme fatales of all time, coming in at #8 on AFI's 100 Greatest Villains List... Her fame as a femme fatale would probably be amusing to her, but she was right when she said that "roles in which [actresses] play evil women sometimes make a deep impression" (Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck.) How essential is this "evil woman" to the lasting appeal of this film and the film noir genre?

Cameron writes: "Cain's story was first submitted to the Production Code Administration back in 1935 by MGM head Louis B. Mayer. But the PCA chief, Joseph Breen, shot down MGM's hopes, writing that the story violated the Production Code and was 'almost certain to result in a picture which we would be compelled to reject..the leading characters are murderers who cheat the law and die at their own hands; the story deals improperly with an illicit and adulterous sex relationship; [and] the details of the vicious and cold-blooded murder are clearly shown.'"In September 1943 Breen wrote that Wilder and Chandler's treatment appeared acceptable, so long as the towel wrapped around Phyllis in her first scene 'properly cover[s]' her and falls beneath her knees: 'There must be no unacceptable exposure.' Also, the 'whole sequence of the detailed disposition of the corpse is unacceptable as a too detailed exposition of crime...We strongly urge, therefore, that you fade out after they take the body from the car...'" Do you think that Joseph Breen simply had a change of heart about the morals of the nation or did the artistry of Wilder and Chandler's treatment help bend the code?

Thanks to Cameron for allowing me to excerpt her excellent blog post on this film. There is much more insight where this came from, and plenty more pictures and clips, too. Please read.

More insight from Richard Edwards and Shannon Clute Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir Podcast Episode 2: Double Indemnity

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