Sunday, July 11, 2010



It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?
                               --James M. Cain/Raymond Chandler/Billy Wilder
                                          --Double Indemnity

clip_image002Does murder really smell like honeysuckle? Well, I'm not so sure about that, though that is one of my favorite lines from film noir. But we did go to the Motion Picture Academy the other night to see Double Indemnity on the really big screen as part of Oscar Noir: 1940s Writing Nominees from Hollywood’s Dark Side festival –

And if one had to show a Martian the ultimate film noir for my money it would be D.I. It has everything a good noir should have: great, shadowy black and white photography (I know, I know, there are color noirs), a femme fatale, a man who gets sucked into a vortex of lust and murder and people who are just utterly despicable – just the kind of people you want to spend a couple hours of your life with, at least onscreen. I could write pages on how much I like this movie and film noir, but there's not much that hasn't already been said and this blog is really about the screening and the festival. But if you want to see a great film noir, check out Double Indemnity.

And there's certainly nothing like seeing a movie on not the big screen, but the huge screen – the Silver Screen. I noticed things that I'd never noticed before, though one of them was pointed out before the screening: Raymond Chandler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Billy Wilder, based on James M. Cain's novel, has a recently clip_image004discovered cameo. After Fred MacMurray leaves Edward G. Robinson's (Barton Keyes's) office, Chandler is seen sitting on a chair in the hall. A rare appearance for the reclusive author.

One of the drawbacks to seeing an old movie like this today is that audiences have become jaded and cynical. When I watch a film noir in the dark of my home I take it seriously, unless it's just so bad that you can't help but laugh, in which case I would probably turn it off. But with an audience, even an audience of noir lovers, there is laughter, sometimes at appropriate places, sometimes not. And the laughter takes one – at least this one – out of the moment and out of the mood of the film, especially a serious film. That said, there's also something enjoyable about watching a great old movie with an audience, even a movie I've seen fifty times, if not more.

Before the movie, Miriam Nelson (Franklin) spoke. She played Edward G. Robinson's secretary. Screenwriter Nicholas Meyer introduced the movie. And Edward G. Robinson's granddaughter and great grandson were there in the audience.

After the movie, Laurie MacMurray Gerber, Fred's daughter, was interviewed. She said that if you take a look at the original drawings for Captain Marvel you might notice a similarity to Fred MacMurray as the artists based Marvel on her dad. She also talked about how she'd never seen her dad kiss another woman, other than her mom, actress June Haver, except when she watched Double Indemnity for the first time.

If you love film noir, there's still time to see several great movies on the really big screen. Check it out at:

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On another, but related subject, the security at the Academy Theatre sucked. I can sort of understand going through security at an airport though that, along with several other things, has made flying a nightmare. I'm not scared of terrorists or the actual flying – never have been – but I am scared of airport security which makes me insecure about my rights and freedom. But I digress. When we got to the Academy Theatre we had to empty our pockets into little plastic trays as one does at the airport, a security guard rifled my wife's purse. What were we going to do, blow up the ten foot tall golden Oscars at the front of the auditorium?

Since we moved out to a more rural area outside of L.A. a few years ago and have become sort of hermits/recluses we haven't been going to screenings as we used to. Never had to go through security. Of course that was awhile back and they were industry screenings. The Double Indemnity showing was open to the public so maybe that's the difference. Because if it isn't and you have to go through thclip_image006is humiliating process every time you go to a screening, what a nightmare our society has become. Hell, even if it is a public screen, how sad that this is what we've become. And I do find it humiliating to be searched and prodded as if we're all badguys.clip_image008

Can't wait for the full body scans and breast groping to begin.

The Salahis can get into an affair with President Obama, but we have to go through this humiliation to watch a 60 year old movie?  Enough already!