Wednesday, July 17, 2019

You're Invited! Presenting THE STYLE OF SIN: KAY FRANCIS at Egyptian Theatre 7/20


This Saturday is the next event in my 6-part Pre-Code speaker/screening series 
at the American Cinematheque!

THE STYLE OF SIN: KAY FRANCIS
PRE-CODE FILM WITH KIMBERLY TRUHLER

Egyptian Theatre
Hollywood, CA

Talk starts at 1:00 pm 
followed by screenings of Girls About Town (1931) and Jewel Robbery (1932)

There will also be a display of Joseff of Hollywood jewelry from Jewel Robbery


The Pre-Code era of Hollywood refers to the years between 1930 when the Production Code was adopted and 1934 when it was in full effect. The Code prohibited seeing many sins on screen, so Pre-Code films are beloved for how risqué and provocative they could be with their look and content.

This 6-part series that introduces you to some of the most popular actresses of the Pre-Code era - Barbara Stanwyck, Kay Francis, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Blondell, and Joan CrawfordEach event will begin with one of my presentations followed by a double feature of films. There will be one event per month. 

Though costume design is important in film, it is particularly significant to the plot and production of the movies selected for this series. In each talk, you will also learn about the costume designers themselves - how they contributed to the style of the studios along with the evolution of the actresses' careers and personal style.

Upcoming events in the STYLE OF SIN series can be seen on the GlamAmor Events page.


For STYLE OF SIN: BARBARA STANWYCK,
I wore a late 1960s/early 1970s shirtdress with a neckline that was popular in the 1930s


 Two special guests came to my first Pre-Code event - 
Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney,
who are two of the nicest people you will ever meet



Some attendees flew in from across the country, 
like the wonderful Crumps who came all the way from Detroit


Some attendees like Valerie Zee have been so supportive
and have come to almost every one of my talks


The courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre
still looks very much like it did at its opening in 1922

Monday, July 8, 2019

Cinema Style File - Barbara Stanwyck Straight Down the Line in 1944's DOUBLE INDEMNITY


A little over a week ago, I started my Pre-Code screening series The Style of Sin at the Egyptian Theatre and my first star was Barbara Stanwyck. As we saw while watching Ladies of Leisure (1930) and Baby Face (1933), she was a talented actress from the very beginning of her career. And though a film like Baby Face was filled with glamorous costumes, Stanwyck's acclaimed onscreen style didn't really hit its stride until she moved to Paramount and starting working with costume designer Edith Head. Even when playing a femme fatale in Double Indemnity (1944), complete with blonde wig, you can still see the beauty in Barbara Stanwyck. Here I share an article I wrote back in 2012 about what many consider the best film noir of all time.

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I knew when I committed to doing a month dedicated to film noir style on GlamAmor that Double Indemnity would have to enter into it. Merely saying its name conjures up images of all the conventions of noir - the femme fatale, shadowy and smoky cinematography, voice-over narration, and the architecture of historic LA. Even those who are not fanatics as I am seem to understand its significance. Though there are many movies to love in the genre, it is 1944's Double Indemnity that is widely considered THE quintessential film noir.  

Double Indemnity was based on a 1935 novela by James M. Cain, who wrote noir classics The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and Mildred Pierce (1945) as well. He was particularly gifted at creating nuanced women who murder and make you able to empathize with their motivations to do so. The novel was turned into a screenplay by director Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler - yes, the Raymond Chandler - who was himself the author of novels on which film noir was based. The Big Sleep, Lady in the Lake, and Farewell, My Lovely (turned into the film Murder, My Sweet with Dick Powell) are all Chandler. The often contentious combination of these three writers is what resulted in the movie's tension and incredible banter. And it's John F. Seitz's mysterious cinematography that really creates the mood - another giant, known for photographing noir classics This Gun for Hire (1942) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). I think he really picked up where Josef von Sternberg left off in Shanghai Express (1932) where shadows, such as through venetian blinds, are used to great dramatic effect. 

Wilder is such a talented director that he created some of the biggest movie hits in history and in every genre. Comedy - Some Like It Hot (in fact, it's AFI's best comedy ever). Drama - Stalag 17. Romantic Comedy - Sabrina. And on and on. He was known for getting the most out of his actors, and he could not have cast more perfect performers as his leads for Double Indemnity. Barbara Stanwyck took on the amoral Phyllis Dietrichson after playing some slightly softer roles. Likewise, Fred MacMurray brought empathy and depth to Walter Neff when the role could have made him seem even more of a heel. And Edward G. Robinson steals every scene he's in as the movie's detective and conscience, insurance investigator Barton Keyes.  

But even with all that, my favorite part of Double Indemnity just might be the costumes by Edith Head. My hero - whose exquisite designs understood the needs of both the actress and her character. Her assignment was frequently the talented Ms. Stanwyck, a woman whom executives originally declared un-attractive. That is, until Edith entered her life. One of her tailoring tricks was to drop the waistline in the back of gowns in order to better present her proportions. It gave Barbara a new lease on life and she would never be without Edith again, whether she was working for Paramount or not.

For the femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, Wilder envisioned the character as oozing "sleazy phoniness." His decision for Barbara's over-the-top blonde wig was his vision of this. But I think Edith understood the character even better. Phyllis is sinister and superficial - her main motivation was money, so much so that her husband complained about the way she liked to spend it. As a result, Edith adorned the character with lots of jewelry, including inventing the iconic anklet for the film which is not in the original book. We also see her in expensive clothes, including a gown for day. But they're still classicly cut, almost as if Phyllis is trying her best to seem the good wife and mask all of her amoral intentions.  

Like most of Edith's work, you'll find Phyllis' wardrobe very wearable today - a belted cashmere coat, cashmere cardigan (worn backward as a top) with simple black pants, tailored suits, and a flirty fringed little black dress. She also wears a silk jumpsuit in the end, a garment way ahead of its time - 30 years later it would become all the rage, especially when interpreted by Halston in the 1970s. Though Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Oscars, nothing went to Edith Head for costume design. It's simply incredible to consider when these are costumes that have become iconic. Whether you recognize it or not, they continue to be referenced in design and live on in today's fashion collections. 

And so, let's take a look at the costumes that continue to inspire - inside the devious but incredibly stylish world of 1944's Double Indemnity.


Starts speeding through the streets of downtown Los Angeles...
the Biltmore Hotel is shown on the left corner below



Though many think the Pacific All Risk insurance company takes place at the Bradbury Building,
it is just a well designed Paramount studio set



Walter's tale is told through voice over and flashback -
one of the hallmarks of film noir



The Dietrichson neighborhood is filmed in the Hollywood Hills (6301 Quebec Drive),
but this Spanish Colonial style can be found everywhere in Los Angeles




Phyllis really knows how to make a first impression -
she also knows opportunity when it comes knocking




You can really see the skillful cinematography of John Seitz here
as we meet Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers) and his daughter Lola (Jean Heather) 
through photographs on the piano



First close up of Phyllis - and her provocative anklet -
as she puts the finishing touches on a ruffle-front silk shirtdress




 An iconic moment in the movie with her "honey of an anklet" -
Edith Head dresses the character with plenty of jewelry to show her attraction to money



"There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. 45 miles per hour."
"How fast was I going, officer?"
"I'd say around 90."



Driving back to the Pacific All Risk where we meet Keyes for the first time




When Walter returns to Phyllis to make his sales pitch, he finds they're alone
and she's looking fetching in a black and white floral gown



He also finds there's murder on her mind




Beer and bowling on Western before heading home



Walter's apartment - exterior filmed at 1825 N. Kingsley Drive in Los Angeles



An unsurprising guest pops in out of the rain



Despite being dressed in an innocent sweater, the scheming begins




Walter tricks Dietrichson into signing for accident insurance 
while Phyllis looks on in a little black dress (and brooch)
that has been copied in fashion many times since




Meeting at Jerry's Market to plan a murder




A call to confirm the plans -
Edith makes great use of the shot by including a ring for Phyllis to wear



The last time anyone sees Mr. Dietrichson
and the moment of the murder shows just how cold-blooded and calculating Phyllis is



Dropping off Walter (taking Dietrichson's place) at Glendale's Southern Pacific Train Station
since death by train brings twice the insurance money - the "double indemnity" clause



Time on the train shows just some of the direction, design, and lighting 
that make this movie so good and inspired many others to borrow from it




Playing a widow in mourning in a gray suit with black accessories,
including a hat with veil



Though at the inquest, Keyes believes Phyllis' story,
he drops by to tell Walter that his "little man" has started to tell him otherwise



 Now the trouble really begins




One bit of trouble is finding Mr. Medford, Oregon - witness from the train - in Keyes' office



Another is Phyllis telling him she has no intention of withdrawing her claim -
it's "straight down the line"





Out of guilt, Walter begins seeing Lola Dietrichson
at an Olvera Street restaurant and above the iconic Hollywood Bowl



Phyllis preps for the final showdown with Walter in a sexy silk jumpsuit



Walter arrives and announces he's getting off their ride together



Notice in the costume how similar the bodice is to Veronica Lake's style



Phyllis draws her gun first, but Walter gets the last shot



The story is finished...and so is Walter



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