Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

April 06, 2009


Double Indemnity COULD be one of the best Barbara Stanwyck movies; one of the best Fred MacMurray movies; one of the best Billy Wilder movies; one of the best movies of all time!! It had the perfect script, the perfect cast and a superb director...

If it weren't for that darn wig!

Am I the only one who feels this way? The stiff, distracting wig with its strange curly cues? The way that the sunglasses sit on the waves in the wig instead of on her ears? It drives me nuts, because Barbara Stanwyck was fiery, spunky and attractive enough to play the seductive Phyllis Dietrichson without having to adorn her head with a b-movie wig.

Do you agree with the Stanwyck/Double Indemnity Dilemna, or do you have a different movie distraction that drives you up the wall?

Here's a link to my original gushy Barbara Stanwyck post accompanied by a trilogy of Stany paintings: Greatest Actress EVER!

19 comments:

Nicole said...

Ohhh that drove me absolutely nuts, she looked so much better without that darn wig on. I didn't understand why it had to be that wig, I'm sure they could have found something better but you do have to admit the wig is iconic.

Kate Gabrielle said...

Well, it is iconic, but I think her performance would have iconic without it, too. (Or even if they just dyed her natural hair blonde?)

Cullen Gallagher said...

I love the wig! It is so garish and unattractive but completely commanding. I don't think her character would have worked without it - there's something completely false about it that rings true to her character's own duplicity.

Either way, it's unforgettable.

R. D. Finch said...

Kate, I love this movie too. It's one of Wilder's best, and it's my favorite performance by Stanwyck. I actually like the wig because it makes her look so tawdry, like that anklet. However, I've read many, many people who say how much they hate the wig. The movie's director, Billy Wilder, once said it was the biggest mistake he ever made in one of his movies!

Matthew Coniam said...

It's a WIG???!!!

Lolita said...

Hahaha, I agree with you!

Sebina said...

The wig has grown on me by now, but for years it bothered me to no end.

I'm considering buying one of your Stanwyck paintings :)

Keith said...

I had never actually thought about the wig before. Not sure I even realized it was a wig. lol I do love this film and the casting. Classic.

Raquelle said...

I like the wig. You know the story of how the wig came about and why they kept it right? :-)

caseykoester said...

Yes, yes, yes! I hate the wig! It always bothers me that her sunglasses don't sit on her ears. Who wears their sunglasses over their hair? I've tried it, the sunglasses just fall off! It makes your hair hang funny, too.

Do you think Phyllis is really supposed to be wearing the wig, or it's supposed to be her natural hair? I'd prefer Barbara Stanwyck's natural hair dyed. The whole "blonde out of a bottle" idea would have worked just as well (no- better) than a bad wig.

Thank heaven's someone else shares my pet peeves! :) Ooh - the portrait is wonderful, you even have those wretched sunglasses right. ;)

Kate Gabrielle said...

Cullen- Definitely unforgettable, but I think her performance would have been even without the wig. A lot of noir films have very false, artificial femme fatales who don't have bad blonde wigs, though, so I don't know that it was neccessary. You have to admit, the sunglasses resting on the side is a little distracting :)

RD- I think I remember Billy Wilder saying that- was it in a documentary? I watched one last year that I really enjoyed (he kept going back and forth between German and English, and had a Lubitsch quote hanging up in his office-- he seemed like such a character!)

Matthew- YES!!!

Lolita- Yay!

Sebina- Maybe in time it will grow on me, too.. her wigs in Baby Face used to annoy me, too, but now it's just this one. Aww thanks about the paintings! If you decide you want one just let me know :)

Keith- Even with the wig, it is definitely a classic.

Raquelle- No, I don't know the story-- prey tell!!!!

casey- LOL!! Isn't the sunglasses thing particularly annoying?! That scene would have had so much more punch if she took down her glassses FROM HER EARS!

I'm not sure if Phyllis is wearing the wig or Barbara is wearing the wig as Phyllis. If they had shown Phyllis putting on the wig, I think the whole wig dilemna really wouldn't bother me, actually, if it was just a character quirk.

Meredith said...

"We hired Barbara Stanwyck, we got George Washington"

I completely agree with this post, especially because I think that the reason for the wig was less motivated by character and more about trying to cover Barbara Stanwyck's age since she refused to dye her gray hairs. Ok, it was supposed to make her look cheap and fake (which phyllis was), but it distracted from the major alluring quality of the femme fatale and Barbara Stanwyck of all people needed no help in being sexy as hell at any age.

Still a great film though, of course. :)

Genevieve said...

The first time I watched to movie, I couldn't stop staring at that hideous wig. Now that I've seen in a few more times, its unfortunately begun to grow on me a bit. I don't think the movie would be the same without it. It's as ugly and unnatural as Phyllis' soul.

rockrollgoodlife said...

'Double Indemnity' is one of my all time favorite movies.
and Barbara Stanwyck is just THE BEST EVER.
my ultimate movie distraction; Charlton Heston's blazing lack of mexican-ness in 'Touch of Evil', even though that movie is still amazing, too.

- liv <3

Raquelle said...

Billy Wilder knew it looked phony but he decided just to go forward with it anyways because he was already in the middle of shooting.

I think the choice was a good one because we are still talking about that same phony looking wig 65 years later!

Mercurie said...

I have to confess. I always just thought the wig was part of the character. I took it as part of the character's over all falseness--you know, false hair, false woman.

Kate Gabrielle said...

Meredith- ha! What a funny quote! Is that Billy Wilder? I agree, Barbara Stanwyck really aged well; she still looked young even in the 50's when a lot of her former box office rivals were really showing their age.

Genevieve- Maybe I need to watch it more to get used to it.. It's probably the only Barbara Stanwyck movie that I haven't seen over 20 times! I still think, though, that her character would still be convincing and memorable without it.

rockrollgoodlife- Oh, Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil! What a good example! That's another pet peeve of mine- when they hired Caucasian actors to play ethnic roles when there were wonderful actors and actresses who could have played those parts authentically.

Raquelle- I love middle-of-shooting stories. I heard one years ago about Young at Heart. Frank Sinatra's character Barney Sloane was supposed to die in the end, like John Garfield's character did in the original version. Halfway through the film, Frank Sinatra refused to die! So they had to re-write the script, or re-shoot all of his scenes with a different actor! Obviously they chose a rewrite, and I'm glad because it's actually my favorite of all his roles.

Mercurie- This is becoming a theme.. false woman/false wig. I just posted another one, and realized its the same scenario. Norma Shearer in Idiot's Delight (false woman/false wig) I'm sensing a pattern...

DKoren said...

You know, I haven't seen this movie in a long time (though I love it), and it never occurred to me it was a wig! I was completely oblivious. Now I'll have to watch it again (oh, the hardship!) and check it out!

Kate Gabrielle said...

lol! Watch it again and then tell me what you think about the wig!