Friday, January 28, 2011

Double Indemnity: A Film Discussion

Despite icy sidewalks and a temperature of about three degrees Fahrenheit at showtime, nine people came to the library last Friday evening to see and discuss the second classic in our Film Noir series, Double Indemnity with Fred McMurray, Barbara Stanwick, and Edward G. Robinson. Most impressively, they stayed over half an hour discussing the merits and the aging of the film. I like to think they stayed not just to keep from going back out in the cold. Almost everyone contributed to the lively discussion.

Most of the viewers thought the acting was good, even if not demanding much range of emotions. As an insurance salesman, McMurray seemed to have a good command of policy lingo. Stanwick seemed suited to be an unhappy housewife who wanted her husband killed. The cast delivered their lines in the snappy fashion of the times, especially Robinson, who really rattled out sharp statements with his distinctive voice. McMurray, however, did not really look like he was driving in the car scenes; his eyes didn't seem to move.

The plot was clever but not really convincing. There did not seem to be any real bond between McMurray and Stanwick, and how they could have ever had an openly acknowledged relationship was never addressed. The motivation of greed was used to cover lack of forethought.

The passing of time made some parts of the film unintentionally humorous. There was a lot of giggling when McMurray described the mansion as a $30,000 house. Everyone also thought having insurance agents discuss actuarial tables when smoking like chimneys ironic. Physical relationships and language stayed very stiff as not to offend the Hays Commission, which oversaw the morality of 1940s films. As it was, the film barely got passed the commission.

Everyone admitted being entertained and enjoying the stylish cinematography. There was the nicely restored black and white images, long uninterrupted single camera shots, and great use of shadows. The director lingered at tense moments letting the characters (and audience) sweat. A few details were off, such as McMurray wearing a wedding ring through the whole film despite his character being a bachelor, and a lamp disappeared during a scene. Some people thought Stanwick's wig was awkward. But, in general, it was an artistically-made film and a nice thing to see on a cold winter's night.

1 comment:

C.B. James said...

One of my favorites.

"That's a honey of an anklet."

There's some very sexy stuff in the dialogue.