James M. Cain Film Review – Three Books to Film

Here’s my apologia. I understand that these movies were progressive in the 1940s, showing women in roles, whether good or bad, that were out of the societal norms of the time. I acknowledge that these movies are important, but I watch movies for entertainment value, with only a dash of intentions to round out my film history education, and I sadly was only entertained by one of these three films.

Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder and screenplay by the master of hard-boiled noir writing, Raymond Chandler was an enjoyable way to spend some time.  This was true noir to me, not a melodramatic morality tale. I’m  putting the Double Indemnity on my book collection search list. I’m curious to see how much of Raymond Chandler’s superb writing  for the screenplay had to do with the success of the movie. I realize now, a screenwriter is equivalent to a good translator of foreign books, they can make or break the story.

Double Indemnity
I grew up watching The Big Valley where Barbara Stanwyck played a tough do-gooder matriarch and seeing her in this role was shocking.
This is the 1943 first edition cover published by Avon books. (Not the same as the cosmetics company. ) The murderers look quite innocent compared to the cast in the film.

I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece from Mildred Pierce after reading the synopsis and reviews. The film is directed by the prolific Michael Curtiz, who made Casablanca the work of art that it is, and with a screenplay by Arnold MacDougall. My expectations were matched. Joan Crawford watered down is no fun and the convoluted plot left no impression on me.

Does Joan look like a hash slinger?
Here is a lack-luster first edition book cover from 1941 to match the movie..

The Postman Always Rings Twice, directed by Tay Garnett with screenplay by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch. I did have high hopes for this classic that everyone analyzes and raves about, but it was like Mildred Pierce, long and convoluted. The three main characters create a living hell for themselves over and over, when they could have chosen better,  and watching it go on was a drag. This was a morality lesson in movie form.

This poster has been colorized, but Lana Turner wore white throughout the movie, except for a few scenes where she wore black as an not so subtle ominous hint.
Love this first edition dust jacket art from 1934. It makes it look like the story is going to be fun.

Thanks for reading.

Empress Norma

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