2014/09/17

Double Indemnity


Finished watching the 1944 movie “Double Indemnity” today. Quite good! Barbara Stanwyck has two big challenges, both of which I believe she passes with flying colors. The first is that she has to make us believe that she's so incredibly sexually desirable that Fred MacMurray (Yup, the dad in My Three Sons) loses all sense of reason and proportion and is actually willing to kill for her. Not only that, she does so while staying within the highly restrictive Hays Code, a code that states: “Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown” and demanded, among other things, that couples couldn't share a double bed, but had to sleep in two singles.

Second, her step-daughter Lola (Jean Heather) describes how Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck) carried out a cold and cruel act and then stood there without showing any sign of remorse. Stanwyck does a good enough job building the character of Phyllis that Lola's description of Phyllis comes across as entirely believable.

The description given by Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) of always listening to his “little man” is a hilarious side-note. I also understood why films after the Hays Code felt the need to allow at least a few sympathetic characters to get away with it all and to make their way to sunny resorts.

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