Thursday, February 21, 2013


Watched this tonight with my fifteen-year-old. Part of TCM's series on Oscar winners and nominees. I've seen it a lot, but always forget some of the details and usually am delightedly surprised at other things I forgot or maybe never even noticed. The way a shot is framed, or a set dressed, and especially background vignettes like the kids playing baseball in the street in a way that makes no sense, the little girl in a dress batting at the end of a driveway facing a house which means if she hits the ball well there's a strong possibility it will break a window. But the detail of her playing in a dress is doubly satisfying, first because it so represents the world when I was a boy, most men in suits and ties, women and girls in dresses, even sometimes while playing sports. But it also emphasizes that during the war females gained a certain parity in the workforce because so many men were overseas, and at least in that scene even in the makeshift playground of a street.

My son wandered off for a bit in the middle but came back for the surprisingly suspenseful last forty-five or fifty minutes. Interestingly he didn't like Fred McMurray's acting in it, though he got Barbara Stanwyck's character's diabolical seductiveness immediately. MacMurray was always the weakest thing in this flick for me as well. I love Billy Wilder's direction and his and Raymond Chandler's script and Edward G. Robinson's supporting role as MacMurray's character's immediate boss and so much else about the flick, including the actors playing the daughter (Jean Heather) and her boyfriend (Byron Barr). My teenage son thought Jean Heather playing the eighteen-year-old daughter was beautiful, and he dug the classy way the men dressed in their fedoras and suits and ties. I found that pretty cool too.
[Jean Heather in DOUBLE INDEMNITY]

I used to make my older kids watch classic flicks as well and I think it was an important and integral part of their education and development. Hopefully it will be for my younger son too. He's already watched some of my favorites with me, like ON THE WATERFRONT and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS among many. Here's to Turner Classic Movies.

[PS: Here's a strange coincidence I found when looking up Byron Barr, for whom DOUBLE INDEMNITY was probably the highlight of his acting career. Only two years before, another Byron Barr was also starting an acting career in Hollywood playing a film character named "Gig Young," and the head of the studio decided for that actor Gig Young was a better name, so he kept it and became a minor star and Hollywood celebrity, while the other Byron Barr had a much less illustrious career, with the exception of his small role in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Ain't the Internet grand sometimes?]


-K- said...

Perhaps you already know this but I just recently learned that Raymond Chandler himself is briefly in the movie. He's reading a magazine when MacMurry exits his office in the Bradbury Bldg.

Maybe I can find it on YouTube...

-K- said...

Here it is, Raymond Chandler as he appears in "Double Indemnity" -

Lally said...

Totally cool K, thanks for that. (I only wish these links would show up in a click mode and not cut-and-paste).

Miles said...

Love Double Indemnity. I always enjoyed McMurray in it, knowing him first from the corny tv show My Three Sons added to the impact of his character's downward spiral.

K, thanks for the link! Love Chandler too, and I never would have noticed him in that split second cameo.

Also, dad you can double or triple click the link to highlight it, then use two fingers to click the pad again, and you should get a box open that gives the option of opening the link in a new window.

Lally said...

Thanks Miles.