Femme fatale—is defined as “an irresistibly attractive woman, especially one who leads men into danger or disaster”. To me the most engaging semblance of a “femme fatale” is the stunning image of Lana Turner, as the camera pans from her ankles upward in that breathtaking shot from The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946. Read more
By the fall of 1943, Barbara Stanwyck had starred in 43 films. She had shown versatility with many styles. However, there remained one type of role, and an integral part of the spectrum of any actress, that she had never done, and the time seemed right for it. It was still early enough in cinema history for audiences to be shaken up by a thoroughly evil woman.Stanwyck was well aware of the potential in the role of Phyllis Dietrichson in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, Wilder remarked later how Barbara jumped at the chance of playing it. In an interview for Movie Digest in 1972, Barbara, recalled, “when Billy Wilder sent me the script of Double Indemnity, and I read it, I realized that I had never played an out–and–out killer. I had played medium heavies, but never an out–and–out killer. And because it was an unsympathetic character, I was a little frightened of it. I went to his office, and I said to him, I love the script and I love you, but I’m a little afraid, after all these years of playing heroines to play the part of an out–and–out cold– blooded killer… Read more
In the little town of Bridgeport, California, Jeff Bailey runs a gas station with the assistance of a mute boy, Jimmy, and courts Ann. One autumn day, Joe Stefanos drives into town and informs Jeff that Whit Sterlin a racketeer, wants to see him. Jeff relates his life’s story to Ann as they drive to Sterling’s Lake Tahoe mansion. As a private detective named Jeff Markham, he was hired to find Sterling’s mistress, Kathie Moffett, who had shot Sterling and escaped with $40,000. Jeff found Kathie in Mexico but fell in love with her and believed her claim that she did not steal any money. They moved to San Francisco and lived anonymously until Fisher, Jeff’s former partner, found them. Kathie killed Fisher and Jeff discovered evidence that proved she lied about the money. Disillusioned, Jeff moved to his new life at Bridgeport. Arriving at Sterling’s, Jeff assures Ann before she departs that he no longer loves Kathie. Meeting with Sterling, Jeff is surprised to see Kathie. She secretly tells him that Sterling is blackmailing her about Fisher’s murder to stay with him. The racketeer blackmails Jeff to obtain tax records from Eels, a renegade accountant of Sterling’s gang, but Jeff is being used as a patsy: Eels is to be killed by Stefanos, who will frame Jeff for the murder. Read more
Film Noir is often innovated in narrative techniques. Double Indemnity is marked by two temporal movements: of real time and remembered time. The film opens with Walter Neff (MacMurray) arriving at his office in the middle of the night and delivering into a dictating machine his confession for killing a man— for money (pause) and for a woman. These words trigger a flashback that is occasionally narrated by his voice– over confession. Gradually the narrative brings real time and memory together, while the unusual juxtaposition of temporalities gives the spectator a premonition of what will occur/has occurred in the flashback story. Finally, they meet as Neff is about to die from the gunshot would he suffered at the end of his flashback.
Scarlet Street another tale of allurement and murder–and a remake of Jean Renoir’s 1931 French film La Chienne the novelty (under Production Code rules) is that the Murderer gets away with it, while another man dies in the electric chair for the crime. Because of this apparent breach of the Code, the city of Atlanta, Georgia, tried to stop the film from screening there. In an affidavit supporting the film, Joseph L. Breen of the Production Code Administration wrote, “It was our contention and belief that in this particular motion picture, the murderer was adequately punished by a higher power, working through his own conscience, which drove him to become a social outcast and a hopeless derelict.” Read more