Double Indemnity (1944). Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Fred MacMurray (as Walter Neff), Barbara Stanwyck (as Phyllis Dietrichson), and Edward G. Robinson (as Barton Keyes). Screenplay by Raymond Chandler.
Double Indemnity manages to do something many may have thought impossible: it makes the insurance business seem sexy, exciting, and dangerous. In this film noir, insurance salesman Walter Neff (played by Fred MacMurray) drops by the house of Phyllis Dietrichson (played by Barbara Stanwyck) to renew her husband’s auto policy one afternoon, and eventually, due to his sleazy infatuation with Mrs. Dietrichson, he consents to forging new life insurance papers for her husband that she can use to cash in on an enormous sum once she has tidily eliminated him. It does not take long for the seemingly decent Neff to succumb to Mrs. Dietrichson’s wiles, and soon he is masterminding the plot not only to kill Mr. Dietrichson but to do it in the most profitable way: via a double … Read the rest
Scarface (1932). 94 minutes. Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring Paul Muni (as Tony Camonte), Osgood Perkins (as Johnny Lovo), George Raft (as Guino Rinaldo), Boris Karloff (as Gaffney), Ann Dvorak (as Cesca Camonte), and Karen Morley (as Poppy). Produced by Howard Hughes.
“Oh, I knew Luciano and Costello, and even Capone, and lesser lights. It was easy to be in movies and not know them, but almost impossible to be in show business—Broadway—without knowing them, unless you never went out at night to a nightclub and never knew anybody in any form of show business. Unless you were the Lunts or Katharine Cornell, it was virtually impossible not to get to know them—they were so anxious for you to. Capone used to take four rows at the opening night for every play in Chicago and come backstage and see everybody. You couldn’t get to a nightclub without Costello sending over a bottle of champagne, or sit in Lindy’s without Luciano … Read the rest
M (1931). 110 minutes. Directed by Fritz Lang. Starring Peter Lorre (as Hans Beckert), Gustaf Gründgens (as The Safecracker), and Otto Wernicke (as Inspector Karl Lohmann).
It has often been pointed out that M is a terrific example of a film that bridges the silent and talkie periods. M was German director Fritz Lang’s first talkie, and it makes use of sound in a very interesting way. For many early filmmakers, their first ventures into sound became opportunities to show off the new technology by using sound constantly and extravagantly — hence the large number of musicals in the early days of sound films. Lang’s M was different, though, in that it actually contained many evocative, intensely silent passages and, at other times, very carefully and strategically used sound. For example, early in the film, we come to know that young Elsie Beckman (played by Inge Landgut) has disappeared for good when we spy her balloon silently trapped in the … Read the rest