11. Double Indemnity, 1944. Once again, a Barbara Stanwyck performance that is nothing less than perfection. This time Stanwyck plays bad blond Phyllis Dietrichson, a hard-boiled tramp—her gold anklet speaks volumes—who wants her husband dead. Fred MacMurray is the cynical insurance salesman who steps libido-first into Dietrichson’s web of deceit. This is the movie that sets the standard for Film Noir, that most influential genre.
Every morning I rise at about five AM, don my sweats, hook up my iPhone’s music function and take a brisk three-mile walk.
The streets of Los Angeles at this time of the morning are wet, slick from all the lawn sprinklers that explode with a fearsome hiss in the middle of the night. There is very little traffic: mostly construction trucks heading to work sites, and wheezing vans driving on the wrong side of the street delivering newspapers with a metronomic thunk, thunk, thunk.
Quite often there’s a low hanging fog; lights from lamp posts and porches are heavily diffused.
Film Noir, a genre that flourished in the late 40’s and early fifties posited a Los Angeles that is dark and dangerous; a place where crime and double crosses are the norm. In masterpieces such as Double Indemnity, (1944), Gun Crazy (1950) The Big Combo (1955), and The Killing (1956 ), annihilation of the body and soul is predestined.
This morning, as B.B. King informed me that “The Thrill is Gone,” I reached Castle Heights and stopped in my tracks. There, near a street lamp, a man and woman were locked in a passionate embrace. I could only see their silhouettes.
Great clip from The Bribe, (1949) a steamy film noir starring Ava Gardner, Robert Taylor, Vincent Price and Charles Laughton.
Taylor plays an FBI agent on a mission to break up an illegal war surplus racket. Ava’s an innocent femme fatale, the devil’s candy.
Here’s the moment Taylor—and the audience—first lay eyes on Ava.
Ava’s killer gown designed by the Irene (b. Irene Lentz.)