Saturday, April 23, 2011
DOUBLE INDEMNITY -- The Noirest of the Noir?
by Libby Hellmann
It’s spring. Chicago is about to swear in a new mayor, the tulips are almost up, and the lake has lost all of its ice. Hopefully, the Outfit is coming out of hibernation too… except for Jamie, who, I’m convinced, never sleeps.
So, armed with great intentions and energy, I’d like to ask those of you who are still reading us (bless you) some questions about a classic noir novel. (So much for the beauty of spring…☺)
Last year I conducted workshops on THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by the father of noir, James Cain. I adored getting into the story, the amoral characters, and the capricious nature of evil… and fate. The workshops must have gone well, because I was asked to do another one this summer… this time on DOUBLE INDEMNITY.
So I’m re-reading the novel, and I watched the film again (what would we do without Netflix?). The film was better than I remembered -- casting Fred MacMurray as the good/bad guy was a stroke of genius – but the novel is troubling me a lot more than I recalled.
I have a pretty high tolerance for noir. And despair. And the evils that men and woman are capable of. But -Jeez – every time I put the book down, I want to take a shower. What is it about DOUBLE INDEMNITY that makes it even blacker than POSTMAN? Is it that Huff (the Fred MacMurray character) is really a nice guy – unlike Frank in POSTMAN -- who’s just fallen in lust? Is it because he shows some kind of remorse, again, unlike Frank in POSTMAN? Is it because he’s willing to kill the object of his lust in order to make it with another woman?
I’m not sure, which is why I’m asking you. Do you think DOUBLE INDEMNITY is more noir than POSTMAN? If so, why? If not, why?
Would love to hear your comments…