Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The 2nd Annual SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon: Double Indemnity

Let's talk about sex, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let's talk about sex
Let's talk about sex

That's how the chorus to one of the most popular songs ever recorded by the legendary Salt-N-Pepa goes. And it's what we're doing today as part of The 2nd Annual SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog. However, the title is a just a tad misleading. The movies we're talking about have to be sexy without resorting to nudity, love scenes, and/or dirty talk. In his words...

The movie you choose can be from any era (even silent), but it needs to be a movie that subtly suggests sex. No writhing, naked bodies, and no explicit dialogue about how much one person wants to go to bed with another.

That means a movie I find to be one of the sexiest ever made, Body Heat is way out. Even more out of bounds is stuff like 9 1/2 Weeks, Love Jones, or Blue is the Warmest Color. In other words, nothing like another Salt-N-Pepa song...

Yo, yo, yo, yo, baby-pop
Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I'm gonna get pissed
Can't you hear the music's pumpin' hard like I wish you would?
Now push it
Push it good
Push it real good

Yeah, we're not going down that route.

That said, I feel like I'm cheating a little bit. It's not that my film has any writhing, naked bodies, or explicit dialogue. However, I just don't know that I would call it subtle. Then again, it probably is, because I'm fairly confident that I could let my teenagers watch it and two thirds of what's said will fly right over their heads.

The film I'm talking about is none other than what I consider to be the greatest film noir of all-time, Double Indemnity starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. If you don't know the plot of this movie, you should, but I'll give you a quick rundown, anyway.

MacMurray plays Walter Neff and insurance salesman who shows up at the house of a wealthy man in hopes of renewing an auto insurance policy. When he arrives, the man isn't home, but his gorgeous wife Phyllis Dietrichson greets him. She manages to seduce Mr. Neff and convince him to help her take out an accident policy on her husband without his knowledge and murder the man in convincing enough fashion for her to claim the benefit.

Almost from the instant Walter and Phyllis meet, they're clamoring to jump each other's bones. However, this is a movie that was made in 1944. Audiences, or at least the censors, weren't ready for characters to just come right out and say that. Instead, what we get is some of the most incredible dialogue to ever make it to the silver screen. It's filled with a ridiculous amount of double entendre that are both funny and sexy. Some of them are so sly that you might miss what's actually being said. It starts right away, the first time our lovebirds share a scene.

Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don't you drop by tomorrow evening about eight-thirty. He'll be in then.
Walter Neff: Who?
Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him weren't you?
Walter Neff: Yeah, I was, but I'm sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.
Phyllis: There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.
Walter Neff: How fast was I going, officer?
Phyllis: I'd say around ninety.
Walter Neff: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Walter Neff: Suppose it doesn't take.
Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Walter Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder.
Walter Neff: That tears it.

That's as naked as she gets, folks.

If you don't quite get what I mean, re-read that exchange again. Not once is sex explicitly mentioned, but damn if they ain't talking about gettin' it on. Walter really is moving too fast, just as Phyllis suggests, but that lets her know that he's just the man to pull off her scheme. She slows him down just enough when she reminds him that she is, indeed, married. Before she said that, it was all Walter could do to keep his pants on. As the conversation progresses, Walter puts his foot back on the gas pedal. Phyllis is still dangling the carrot of her husband being present for Walter's next visit while Walter is just hardcore flirting.

Walter Neff: You'll be here too?
Phyllis: I guess so, I usually am.
Walter Neff: Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
Phyllis: I wonder if I know what you mean.
Walter Neff: I wonder if you wonder.

That last line lets us know this dude is just straight up being forward. Even after he's left her, he can't get over how sexy she is. He drives this point home by saying "I was thinking about that dame upstairs, and the way she had looked at me, and I wanted to see her again, close, without that silly staircase between us." All I can think whenever I hear him say that is 'dude, you got it bad.'

Walter's having it so bad is the thing that makes it so sexy. Throughout the movie it is clear he has fallen head over heels for Phyllis. She is practically all he can think of, and it's quite clear he'll do anything for her. We're not so sure about Phyllis, but she is so convincing she not only seduces Walter, she seduces us, as well. We're quite aware of her duplicitous nature, however, we're not above being roped in by her feminine wiles. For that matter, Walter expresses the occasional doubt, he just can't help himself any more than we can help ourselves in the audience. It's a masterful performance by Stanwyck. She casts an unbreakable spell on her leading man and on the viewers. She exemplifies sexiness without removing a stitch of clothing. It's all in the subtle looks, the purposeful pauses, and her exquisite delivery of that magnificent dialogue.

MacMurray's performance is no less perfect. In lots of way, he represents us. He is so utterly mesmerized by her that even when his instincts tell him not to trust her, he does exactly that. So do we. Through it all, MacMurray makes sure to bring Walter across as a man who fully believes that he is in control of things, especially his affair with Phyllis. Sure, the idea was hers, but he was going to be the one to make a plan and follow it to a tee. Of course, she is a master at letting him think he's in charge.

In the end, well, I won't spoil it, but in the end the story unfolds wonderfully. We've spent most of the movie warning Walter about Phyllis with him not listening. By the same token, we fully understand why he doesn't. She is so enchanting, she leaves us no choice but to be captivated. As she captivates us, the film itself does the same. Double Indemnity gives us sexiness without sex. The heat between Walter and Phyllis is more than palatable. It leaps off the screen and permeates the room we're sitting in.


  1. I've never seen this film, but I now have Salt n Pepa firmly stuck in my head. Thanks lol

    This is an interesting post and blogathon. I may have to check this film out one day.

    1. Shoop shoop ay shoop, you should definitely see it. Shoop ay shoop shoop ay shoop. It's a classic for a good reason ay shoop ay shoop.

  2. I love this film. Part of that comes from Fred MacMurray playing a bad guy, since he had such a nice guy persona. Part of it comes from Edward G. Robinson playing a good guy when he is generally thought of more in Little Caesar-style roles. Part is the whip-crack dialogue and the twisty and intricate plot.

    Most of it, though, is Barbara Stanwyck, who was a sexy beast even when she was wearing a George Washington wig. I love Stanwyck, and this movie (also Stella Dallas and Ball of Fire) is a huge part of the reason why I'm such a dedicated fan of hers.

    1. I love it for all those reasons. McMurray and Robinson are perfectly against type. EGR doesn't exactly fit the sexy vibe I was trying to relay so I didn't mention him, lol. And Stanwyck is great.

  3. I've loved this movie for years, but never, ever did I associate it with Salt-n-Pepa until now. Thanks for sharing a fresh perspective on it and for participating in the blogathon!

    1. You didn't know DI inspired all of their songs? Okay, maybe not. Thanks for hosting. It's a great event.

  4. Man he wanted that anklet of hers!!

    This movie encapsulates so much of what I love about classic film. Since they were bound by the code the writers really had to be inventive with the dialog and they trusted the audience to be clever enough to deduce the meaning. That trust is a huge piece of what makes them wonderful and is so very often absent from modern film where everything is spelled out in detail. I also enjoy the suggestion of the act as opposed to witnessing the act itself-where's the mystery in that?

    Both leads are tremendous, as is Edward G. Robinson, and it seems so odd now that both Stanwyck and MacMurray had reservations about taking the roles. MacMurray was Wilder's first choice but the studio wanted Alan Ladd or George Raft both of whom turned it down and Dick Powell wanted to do it but had a previous commitment fortunately. So when Wilder offered it to Fred and he wavered he told him that Missy Stanwyck, a great personal friend of MacMurray's, would only do the film if he did while telling her the same. When she still hesitated because of Phyllis's dark nature he mentioned that he thought she was an actress but if she was just a movie star he'd look elsewhere. That did it and she charged ahead full throttle.

    With another actress in the part you might wonder why Walter is being such a sap and can't see what a pit viper she is but Stanwyck's palpable allure makes it obvious how she has him on the hook without him realizing just how much he's trapped.

    Another fine example of this theme is the scorching The Postman Always Rings Twice with Lana Turner and John Garfield oozing sexual chemistry in every frame while remaining fully clothed throughout. To see what a high wire act they pulled off all you have to do is try and watch the absolutely wretched remake with Jack Nicholson & Jessica Lange that coarsens and corrupts everything the first got right.

    1. All great points. I'd heard the story of the casting of the two leads before. That's pretty savvy maneuvering. It paid off because they both of them nailed it, as did Robinson.

      I've yet to see either version of The Postman, but it's high on my watchlist.

    2. Only the Turner/Garfield Postman is worth your time. Despite my great fondness for Jessica Lange the makers of the redo don't seem to understand the material and that it's the emotional darkness and grasping neediness of the characters for each other and not them rutting like dogs in heat at every opportunity that is the point of the story.

    3. That actually makes me want to see both even more to see if I agree.

  5. Ah, that is a sexy film. Barbara Stanwyck..... oh baby. Definitely a definitive noir film although I think another film Stanwyck did with Fred MacMurray in There's Always Tomorrow by Douglas Sirk was a better film for me personally though it wasn't a sexually-driven film like Double Indemnity.

    1. Stanwyck kills it. I need to see There's Always Tomorrow. I'm game for something said to be better than Double Indemnity.

  6. Saucy!
    There' s a lot of supposing going on there.

  7. I inadvertently took a film boor class in college, and this was the second film the professor showed (Night of the Hunter being the first). And while I ABSOLUTELY loved this movie, it almost ruined the class. In my opinion, nothing else could compare. The heat these two generate crushes many modern films where the leads actually have sex onscreen.

    Damn, Dell. This post is awesome. I wanna, like, taste it.

    1. I can this movie having that affect my n the rest of the class. And yup, they generate all sorts of heat.

      Bonus points for a SnP reference of your own.