Six films starring the iconic screen actress Barbara Stanwyck. In the classic film noir 'Double Indemnity' (1943), insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) calls at the house of femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck) in order to renew her husband's insurance policy. An immediate attraction sparks between the two, and gradually Phyllis seduces Walter into conspiring with her to murder her husband, now provided with a double indemnity insurance clause. The murder is carried out as planned, but the couple then find themselves growing increasingly suspicious of each other as they get closer to collecting the money. When Walter's boss, relentless investigator Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), starts to look into the policy, Walter and Phyllis' steely resolve begins to falter. In 'The Bitter Tea of General Yen' (1932), set during the Chinese Civil War, American missionary Megan Davis (Stanwyck) is working in Shanghai when she is kidnapped by Chinese warlord General Yen (Nils Asther). Yen falls in love with Megan, but believes that she does not return his affections. However, as they spend time together the missionary comes to care for her captor. In 'The Miracle Woman' (1931) was an early hit for director Frank Capra, and stars Stanwyck as a preacher's daughter who loses her faith when her father is is fired from his church. Taking up with an unscrupulous conman, she starts performing fake miracles for cash, but when she meets a trusting blind man, her faith in God is restored. In 'The Lady Eve' (1941), Henry Fonda stars as Charles Pike, the heir to the Pike Ale empire. Following a year spent looking for rare snakes, Charles is heading for New York aboard the S.S. Southern Queen. But with everyone on board the ship aware of his inheritance, he is hounded by a group of single women looking for a suitable, eligible bachelor. Also after his inheritance are Colonel Harry Harrington (Charles Coburn) and his partner, a pair of conmen and card sharks with a secret weapon - the Colonel's daughter, Jean (Stanwyck). In 'All I Desire' (1953), Stanwyck plays Naomi Murdoch, a woman who abandons her family to pursue a career on the stage. Ten years later, Naomi's daughter invites her back to their small town to see the school's new play, and her arrival causes a storm of controversy. Finally, in 'Golden Boy' (1939), violinist Joe Bonaparte (William Holden) wants to be a boxer, against his father's wishes, but after a few bouts in the ring he begins to have second thoughts. His girlfriend Lorna (Stanwyck) tries to encourage him top continue, but when gangster Eddie Fuseli (Joseph Calleia) wants to buy a piece of Joe from his corrupt manager, Lorna begins to have second thoughts too.
Director Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard
) and writer Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep
) adapted James M. Cain's hard-boiled novel into this wildly thrilling story of insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who schemes the perfect murder with the beautiful dame Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck: kill Dietrichson's husband and make off with the insurance money. But, of course, in these plots things never quite go as planned, and Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) is the wily insurance investigator who must sort things out. From the opening scene you know Neff is doomed, as the story is told in flashback; yet, to the film's credit, this doesn't diminish any of the tension of the movie. This early film noir flick is wonderfully campy by today's standards, and the dialogue is snappy ("I thought you were smarter than the rest, Walter. But I was wrong. You're not smarter, just a little taller"), filled with lots of "dame"s and "baby"s. Stanwyck is the ultimate femme fatale, and MacMurray, despite a career largely defined by roles as a softy (notably in the TV series My Three Sons
and the movie The Shaggy Dog
), is convincingly cast against type as the hapless, love-struck sap. --Jenny Brown
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