Tag Archives: Fred MacMurray

343 – The Apartment

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As Birmingham’s Electric reopens following a protracted period of uncertainty as to whether it was gone for good, it turns to a programme of classics to invigorate its audience. We catch The Apartment there, Billy Wilder’s dark romantic comedy, which Mike has never seen and José not for years, to discuss corporate alienation, whether the suicide story structure works, the cynicism in Wilder’s work and his personal history that it can be seen as a product of, the appeal of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, and the takers, those who get took, and the mensches.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

135 – Double Indemnity

The film noir to end films noir, Billy Wilder’s classic crime drama Double Indemnity made its way to The Electric in Birmingham for a one-off screening, where a packed cinema ensured a great atmosphere. Mike, as usual, hadn’t seen it, while José is very familiar with it, even having taught it before.

Mike didn’t entirely click with it, though he’s able to appreciate much of what makes it a classic. Perhaps the stylistic and thematic elements that identify film noir are so perfectly employed by Double Indemnity that it leads to an ironic, detached mode of viewing – the genre, though it has existed since its inception, is strongly connected to its classical era of the Forties and Fifties, and has been parodied and pastiched more than most, burdening the film with unfair baggage to audiences not in that frame of mind. José, on the other hand, relishes the chance to see it with a paying, enthusiastic audience, finding that he notices different details and appreciates the film differently outside of an academic setting.

Unquestionable is the strength of Barbara Stanwyck’s seductive performance as the femme fatale, her Phyllis Dietrichson the archetype of the dangerous woman who bewitches her doomed victim, in this case a chump played with distracting self-importance by Fred MacMurray. And every time Edward G. Robinson appears on screen he lights it up, capturing the audience, whether with the array of witty retorts and bon mots with which the script furnishes him, or dialogue as ostensibly dull as a recitation of an actuarial table for types of suicide.

With all of this in mind, Mike is sure that a second run at the film would help him appreciate it more. There’s no doubting its place in cinema history, and that it continues to pack out cinemas with eager filmgoers is testament to that.

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With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.