Tag: Barbara Stanwyck

ACF Masters #9: The Lady Eve

 

Today, Zena Hitz returns to the podcast after collecting her laurels for the remarkable success of her book Lost In Thought: The Hidden Pleasures Of An Intellectual Life, or lifelong learning for all Americans. We’re continuing our series on America’s most hilarious comedy writer-director. Preston Sturges: We’ve already covered Sullivan’s Travels, today we turn to romantic comedy, or the problem of modern womanhood in America–The Lady Eve, or The Pratfall of Man. Hank Fonda is Charlie “Hopsy” Pike, heir to the Pike ale fortune and Amazon explorer returning to civilization. Barbara Stanwyck is Eugenia “Gene” Harrington (aka Eve), who hits him in the head with an apple the first time she lays eyes on him. Charlie Coburn is “Colonel” Harrington, her father, a wonderful con man. Eugene Pallette is his–Mr Pike of the bellowing laugh. William Demarest is Muggsy, Fonda’s guardian angel, a sweet soul and truthteller.

ACF Critic Series #10: Double Indemnity

 

Terry Teachout and I have worked our way to the pluperfect noir, Double Indemnity, written and directed by the great immigrant observer of America Billy Wilder, with the help of the most famous writer of crime fiction–Raymond Chandler! Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, Hollywood stars, play great roles as fallen lovers and Ed G. Robinson, usually a gangster, plays as well against type, as a hard-nosed, but also honorable insurance investigator. This is one of the great stories about the temptations of America–quick success and insurance! You will see tragedy in everyday life here: Love vs. law, friendship vs. eros, and happiness vs. justice!

Member Post

 

The title of this Post is the real name of my all-time favorite movie actress, and television star: Barbara Stanwyck. Born July 16, 1907, she died on January 20, 1990, at the age of 82. Actually, I meant to write this then, for the 28th anniversary of her passing. But it got away from me. […]

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Christmas in Connecticut

 

Navy officer, Jefferson Jones, recovering from starvation on the high seas after his ship is sunk, is sent by his nurse to enjoy the domestic bliss of a Christmas in Connecticut, so that he learns to yearn for that with her. She wants to get married. He wants to enjoy sophisticated food. What could possibly go wrong? It turns out that Connecticut, a combination of American nature & European sophistication, is a fake. Elizabeth, the writer who’s supposed to be a happy wife, knows not the first thing about husbanding or home, much less the sophisticated food that’s supposed to be the part of the sophisticated life that even the unsophisticated majority could enjoy & by which they might be attracted. One thing the two protagonists have in common is, they’ve lost their taste for food. She has available exquisite dining, but cannot be bothered, because she’s lonely. He has not recovered his health enough to enjoy safely any real food. He reads her column about great food & fine country living. It turns out that she’s offering him the only kind of culinary delights he can enjoy & she can offer. That’s unhealthy, we’re shown, & it makes for unhappiness, but that’s where we begin!

So some changes to this initial situation are necessary to make for happiness! The comic writers who turned Connecticut into the hunting grounds of American eros know it’s a fake & do their damnedest to make it true. The ambition of Christmas in Connecticut is twofold: To make American romance work by making it more sophisticated; & to make comedy more popular by tasking sophisticated writing with solving simple problems. One requirement of this task is irreverence. In this story, they play with who’s married & who’s engaged, what might constitute adultery or alienation of affection, & they hide a justice of the peace around, as though his duties were shameful, if necessary. Another requirements is to humble sophisticated people by showing their private deficiencies. Marriage is a solution to both problems: It restores some innocence to life & it makes it possible to live with many flaws or shortcomings.

Double indemnity

 

This is the first in a series on Billy Wilder movies; believe it or not, it’s by popular demand & I suppose the noir does fit in some obscure way with the strange, passionate, dangerous times we’re living in… You can read my post celebrating the anniversary of The Maltese falcon to get a sense of where this started, or if you like old movies & what they had to say about America.

Double indemnity was the big movie of 1944. It was accordingly strange. The actors did not want to act, because it’s such a sordid story, but they were persuaded to do it. The writers didn’t want to write it–Hollywood’s most brilliant writer, Billy Wilder, a German Jewish émigré, who had already started on the road to about two-dozen nominations & an half-dozen Oscars, really wanted it done, but his first partner, Charlie Brackett, nixed it for moral concerns. His second partner, who had none such, was none other than Raymond Chandler, the most celebrated American crime writer, then already a successful novelist, his famous stories as yet unfilmed. He did not want to write the movie either, partly because he hated Wilder, who seems to have loved him none too much either, & partly because he hated the novelist he was supposed to be adapting, the aptly named James Cain. Why, you ask? Because Chandler thought highly of his own work & thought the other guy a sleaze, whereas many people did not see the difference… There you go, public & professional concerns of a moral character almost prevented the movie being made. But it did get made & earned seven Oscar nominations, though it was beat soundly by a very moral movie, Leo McCarey’s lovely Bing Crosby picture, Going my way.

Member Post

 

Who had lovelier wit than Preston Sturges? Not many people, at any rate. I’m watching The Lady Eve again, so here are some comments. Eve herself live-tweets the first scene of any comic interest, which she views in her make-up mirror, as though a movie. She has a rather contemptuous wit. She also says things […]

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