Leaving aside that Barbara Stanwyck is not only a very good actress but also extremely sweet, leaving aside the Romanian Jew's extremely polished, smooth manner - can you name an actor alive today that's as good as Edward G. Robinson ? - the script's not entirely retarded, which already ensures supremacy in the "modern"iii field. Can you actually name a "modern" script that's not entirely retarded ? It shouldn't be so hard. It is. Why is it ?
It even includes conveniently packaged illustrations of... "game". You know, that novel brand a new generations of losers came up with. Modern! Here you go :
Won't you sit down, Mr. -- Neff is the name, isn't it?
With two f's, like in Philadelphia. If you know the story.iv
The Philadelphia story. What are we talking about?
About the insurance. My husband never tells me anything.
It's on your two cars, the La Salle and the Plymouth. We've been handling this insurance for three years for Mr. Dietrichson... That's a honey of an anklet you're wearing, Mrs. Dietrichson.
Phyllis smiles faintly and covers the anklet with her dress.
We'd hate to see the policies lapse. Of course, we give him thirty days. That's all we're allowed to give.
I guess he's been too busy down at Long Beach in the oil fields.
Could I catch him home some evening for a few minutes?
I suppose so. But he's never home much before eight.
That would be fine with me.
You're not connected with the Automobile Club, are you?
No, the All-Risk, Mrs. Dietrichson. Why?
Somebody from the Automobile Club has been trying to get him. Do they have a better rate?
If your husband's a member.
No, he isn't.
Well, he'd have to join the club and pay a membership fee to start with. The Automobile Club is fine. I never knock the other fellow's merchandise, Mrs. Dietrichson, but I can do just as well for you. I have a very attractive policy here. It wouldn't take me two minutes to put it in front of your husband. For instance, we're writing a new kind of fifty percent retention feature in the collision coverage.
You're a smart insurance man, aren't you, Mr. Neff?
I've had eleven years of it.
Doing pretty well?
It's a living.
You handle just automobile insurance, or all kinds?
All kinds. Fire, earthquake, theft, public liability, group insurance, industrial stuff and so on right down the line.v
Accident insurance? Sure, Mrs. Dietrichson. I wish you'd tell me what's engraved on that anklet.
Just my name.
As for instance?
Phyllis. I think I like that.
But you're not sure?
I'd have to drive it around the block a couple of times.
Mr. Neff, why don't you drop by tomorrow evening about eight-thirty. He'll be in then.
My husband. You were anxious to talk to him weren't you?
Sure, only I'm getting over it a little. If you know what I mean.
There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.
How fast was I going, officer?
I'd say about ninety.
Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Suppose it doesn't take.
Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder.
That tears it.
Neff takes his hat and briefcase.
Eight-thirty tomorrow evening then, Mrs. Dietrichson.
That's what I suggested.
That's it, done right. Talking to women isn't some sort of voodoo, some sort of technological approach where you turn water from the lake into electricity and McFish Fillets. Talking to women consists of making a point and taking a hint. That's it, and that's all.
The saddest fact of modernity is that the dregs of "modern" democracy are ill equipped to appreciate exactly how much the world has decayed ever since the people of quality gave up and democracy became socially acceptable, a coupla centuries ago. But the comparison between 1944 and 2016 is striking, and the comparison between 1944 and 1872 was in turn just as striking, and before that the comparison of 1872 to 1800. Much like you can't believe the old ads purporting to sell gasoline for five cents a gallon and cigarettes for five cents a pack, much like the five cent piece can't believe you're seriously spending two dollars for the same shit now. Especially seeing how it's not the same shit at all - this is the shit ; that only seemed shit compared to what came before, but when looking at it from today suddenly it's a monument of quality and an avatar of value to be admired from the distance, across a bridge too far.
If you watch this and don't get an irresitible itch to set your world on fire, either your mother had you with a cucumber or else she wasn't speaking English.———
- 1944! By Billy Wilder, with Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck [↩]
- Here's a bit of period lulz : Selznick, who was an asshole, took out ads in the trade papers saying "Since You Went Away are the four most important words in movies since Gone With The Wind". Wilder was just as much an asshole, and so he took out counter-ads on his own dime reading "Double Indemnity are the two most important words in movies since Broken Blossoms", which pissed off Selznick no end, and he was about to sue when Hitchcock, who was also an asshole, and also didn't like Selznick much, took out his own ads in the same papers reading "The two most important words in movies today are Billy Wilder".
Show me this, today. Where is it ? "Modern" men, antique shrew mice, right ? Pshaw. [↩]
- The quotes are there because
Nur fürcht’ ich, wenn ein Gewitter entsteht, sieht leicht so eine Spitze
Herab auf Euer romantisches Haupt des Himmels modernste Blitze!
As early as 1844, as miserable scum as Heine already imagined themselves "modern". As if careful branding could somehow excuse the substance of scum. [↩]
- Nod to The Philadelphia story, a Cukor film of a play, with Grant and Hepurn. Released 1940. [↩]
- Good luck with this, today. It's not just the scripts that went to shit over there, is it ? [↩]