Vintage Pulp Dec 1 2022
DOUBLE OR NOTHING
Stanwyck and MacMurray make a dangerous bet


There are still, after all these years, important classic films we've never discussed in detail. We can now cross Double Indemnity off the list. The movie starred Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, and we've looked at its West German poster, had fun with one of its promo images, and talked about its ingenious quasi-remake, but never actually gotten to the movie itself. Well, here we are, and now the question is can we tell you anything you don't already know? Possibly not, but let's start with the Australian daybill, which you see above. It isn't the usual poster you you find online, so that's something, anyway.

The movie begins with MacMurray making a confession, then slides into flashback to explain his crime. He plays an insurance salesman for Pacific All Risk who quickly realizes that Stanwyck's interest in secretly purchasing a life insurance policy on her husband is for the purposes of murder and claims fraud. He resists the scheme at first but Stanwyck convinces him. How? All we see are a few kisses but the answer has to be sex. McMurray is a guy who has experience with women and is so confident with them he's almost glib. He wouldn't agree to murder a guy just because someone is a good kisser.

Thus, temptation nudges him, unseen sex tips him over the edge, and from there he and Stanwyck are off and running with their murder plot. Eventually Stanwyck's husband is found dead on a train track, presumably after falling off the observation car of the Los Angeles-Santa Barbara express, and the crime seems perfect, except the insurance policy that will pay $100,000 brings a tenacious investigator into the picture. That would be Edward G. Robinson in another great performance, and he immediately latches onto an anomaly—Stanwyck's husband didn't file an insurance claim when he broke his leg weeks earlier. Why would a guy who had accident insurance not make a claim? Maybe he didn't know he had accident insurance.

Robinson's role and performance make the movie. He pulls on the single hanging thread that unravels the entire murder plot, and when it starts to come apart it does so almost too fast to believe. There's revelation upon revelation, even reaching years back to the time that Stanwyck's husband was married to another woman, and Stanwyck was that woman's nurse. It's this latter half that makes Double Indemnity a top classic—though make no mistake, it's a film noir clinic even from its first frames, in terms of visuals, structure, music, and direction from Billy Wilder. But when MacMurray's situation deteriorates so quickly and so uncontrollably in the last half, you almost experience the same vertigo and helplessness his character must feel.

Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and as usual for the Oscars, was beaten in most of its categories by a film that ended up having far less influence—the Bing Crosby musical Going My Way. But time tells the tale. Nobody is calling Going My Way one of the best films ever made, but Double Indemnity was certainly a top ten film noir, and was influential far beyond its niche. The movie opened in the U.S. in the late spring of 1944 and finally reached Australia to dazzle and dismay audiences today, December 1, that same year.

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Femmes Fatales Jul 11 2022
A LIKELY STORY
Don't jump to conclusions. There's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. Give me a minute to think of one.


The talented and versatile Barbara Stanwyck appears in this promo image made for her 1929 pre-Code thriller The Locked Door, which she starred in at the age of twenty-two. It was her first credited role, and actually does involve her making up a flimsy story for a shooting, though not for the reasons you might assume. You'll have to watch the movie to find out more. And there's no reason why you shoudn't, because if Stanwyck wasn't the greatest actress in the history of Hollywood, she was pretty damn close. Below: she's still thinking.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 6 2022
INSURANCE FRAU
Murder most premeditated.


Above is a poster painted by German artist Heinz Bonne for the U.S. film noir classic Double Indemnity, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray as lovers who try to pull off a murder and daring insurance fraud but may not be quite as smart or lucky as needed. We'll hopefully get back to Bonne a little later. Double Indemnity premiered in the U.S. in 1944, but made it to Germany—West Germany actually—as Frau ohne Gewissen, or “woman without a conscience,” six years later, today in 1950.
 
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Modern Pulp May 21 2022
PLAIDING HIS CASE
Something old, something new.


This is something a bit unusual. It's a life-sized promotional cardboard cut-out for 1982's film noir-sourced comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which starred Steve Martin and Rachel Ward. We thought of this film recently due to Martin's new Agatha Christie-influenced television mystery series Only Murders in the Building, which we watched and enjoyed. We first saw Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid years ago, long before Pulp Intl. and all the knowledge we've gained about film noir. We liked it much better during our recent viewing.

If you haven't seen it, Martin uses scores of film noir clips to weave a mystery in which he stars as private detective Rigby Reardon. Aside from Ward, and director Rob Reiner, his co-stars are Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, and many others, all arranged into a narrative that turns out to be about cheese, a Peruvian island, and a plot to bomb the United States.

The film's flow only barely holds together, which you'd have to expect when relying upon clips from nineteen old noirs to cobble together a plot, but as a noir tribute—as well as a satirical swipe at a couple of sexist cinematic tropes from the mid-century period—it's a masterpiece. If you love film noir, you pretty much have to watch it. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid had its premiere at the USA Film Festival in early May, but was released nationally today in 1982.

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Vintage Pulp May 1 2022
THE OLD BUMP AND GRIND
Who do you think you're calling a lady?


We had to watch this one. Lady of Burlesque is an adaptation of Gypsy Rose Lee's 1941 murder mystery The G-String Murders, which we talked about not long ago, describing it as a must-read due to its commingling of burlesque and murder. The movie sticks to much the same course as the book. Murder takes place backstage at a burlesque house and the dancers get together to try and solve the crime. Barbara Stanwyck is thirty-six here and showing excellent abs playing a rising stage star calling herself Dixie Daisy. She gets a solo dance that omits the bold bumps and hipshaking of true burlesque, but it's still a nice number.

The chief problem with Lee's novel is its clunky focus on backstage patter instead of the murder mystery. The movie solves that problem—not by focusing more on the mystery, but by bringing the entertaining burlesque and comedy performances to life, which replaces the weaknesses of Lee's book with strengths. Neat trick, and a pretty neat movie. Did Stanwyck ever headline a failure? We suppose she must have, but we haven't seen it yet. She's not thought of by some as a great cinematic beauty, but if you agree with that assessment this movie may change your mind. Lady of Burlesque premiered today in 1943.
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Intl. Notebook Nov 17 2021
HOLLYWOOD ROYALTY
A dozen movie stars share the Crown.


Not long ago we showed you a few Royal Crown Cola print ads featuring Hollywood superstar Lauren Bacall, and mentioned that other celebs had also pitched the brand. That was an understatement. In its efforts to claw away part of Coca Cola's dominant market share, RC signed up an entire stable of top stars, including a-list personalities such as Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and Gene Tierney. Above you see a dozen celebrity ads produced by RC. There were others we left out of the group, for example with Sonja Henie, Irene Dunne, Diana Lynn, and even Bing Crosby. But how much cola can you really stand? Twelve is enough for one day. 

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Hollywoodland Jan 5 2020
FILE REFERENCE
Supplementary material on the Thelma Jordan case.


We ran across these production shots from the film noir The File on Thelma Jordon, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Wendell Corey, and thought they were worth a share. They were made in 1949 and the film premiered in the U.S. today in 1950. We talked about it last year.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 25 2019
FILED TO A POINT
Stanwyck rips holes in yet another man's life.


The File on Thelma Jordon is another one of those movies in which a man fools around on a perfectly wonderful wife, and in so doing screws up his perfectly satisfactory existence. The fool in question is played by Wendell Corey, who you may recognize as James Stewart's police buddy from Rear Window. Here he's a district prosecutor. His marriage to nice girl Joan Tetzel is problematic for reasons that seem pretty trivial as far as we're concerned, but whatever—it's film noir, and if the script says he's bummed, okay. His wandering gaze soon partakes of veteran bad woman Barbara Stanwyck, and from that point forward he just can't keep his lips to himself. When Stanwyck's frail aunt turns up ventilated, wily Wendell finds himself in a serious pickle, both personally and professionally.

There's not much you can criticize in The File on Thelma Jordon. Stanwyck is a great actress, particularly in moments of high tension or panic, of which there's an abundance. The sequence where she and Corey frantically try to reorganize an incriminating crime scene before anyone else arrives is a tour de force, seven minutes of masterful staging, acting, directing, and cinematography. And that's just the halfway point. The web hasn't even begun to tighten yet. Before long Corey will find himself—as in all the best noirs—in a situation so absurdly awful that there seems to be no possibility of escape. And all because he wasn't happy with his perfectly wonderful wife, and perfectly satisfactory existence. These guys just never learn.

I should be happy with you, my lovely wife, but this is a film noir, so I'm not.

Eyes, nose, lips—yup, everything looks fine. Why do I want to cheat on you so badly?

Hi, I'm Thelma. It's okay to look at me—we'll be making the eight-limbed mattress monster™ soon anyway.

What do you mean you found a gun? What's a gun?

Why, I know nothing at all about the recent thefts of tablecloths from local Italian restaurants. Do you like my new skirt?

Can we go inside now? The center console is bruising my crack.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I've gotten my dick in the wringer but good.

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Femmes Fatales Dec 7 2018
SITTING ON TOP
Sorry, there's only room for one up here.


This 1941 image of U.S. actress Barbara Stanwyck was made when she was filming the comedy-romance Ball of Fire, one of eighty-five films she made during her long career. Her perch on a pedestal here is appropriate, considering she earned up to $50,000 per role, and in 1944 pulled in $400,000 from various sources, making her the highest paid woman in America. No wonder she's smiling.

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Hollywoodland Jul 6 2018
STRANGERS WHEN THEY MEET
Don't look at me you fool! Look at the menstrual cups!


Above is a production still from the classic film noir Double Indemnity showing stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray trying to look like two random grocery shoppers who don't know each other. They're failing big time. But it's not because of the sunglasses and hat. It's because they're both in the feminine hygiene aisle. Well, not really. In the movie we never see what aisle they're in, but our interpretation could explain MacMurray's utterly baffled expression. Double Indemnity premiered today in 1944. And for you history buffs, menstrual cups premiered in stores in the 1930s. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 02
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
December 01
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
November 30
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
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