At this point y’all should be pretty well-versed in Pre-Code Hollywood and all its glory. The Warner Archive is at it again, releasing Vol. 7 of the ever-popular Forbidden Hollywood series. This set features film that, while not the “best” films of the era, feature some of the most salacious scenarios that Hollywood had to offer at the time. These are the kind of morally “loose” films that caused the Catholic church to call the industry indecent. They’re also more sexually charged than most current Hollywood films. The films included in this set are: William A. Wellman’s The Hatchet Man, Edgar Selwyn’s Skyscraper Souls, Roy Del Ruth’s Employees’ Entrance and Robert Florey’s Ex-Lady.
So I have watched this film every year around Passover for as long as I can remember. I love it dearly. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen at the Castro Theatre here in San Francisco yesterday in gorgeous restoration (it’s a shame my DVD screencaps below aren’t from the restoration; they pale in comparison to what I saw projected yesterday). The Ten Commandments was the highest grossing film of 1956 and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning one: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Color Cinematography, Best Color Art Director, Best Color Costume Design, Best Special Effects (won) and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were: Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I and winner Around the World in Eighty Days.
Richard Wanley: The Biblical injunction “Thou shalt not kill” is one that requires qualification in view of our broader knowledge of impulses behind homicide. The various legal categories such as first and second degree murder, the various degrees of homicide, manslaughter, are civilized recognitions of impulses of various degrees of culpability. The man who kills in self defense, for instance, must not be judged by the same standards applied to the man who kills for gain.
Billy Wilder has got to be one of the most masterful and varied directors of all time. He has written and directed some of the greatest films of all time. Although he made films in a variety of genres, two of his greatest achievements were in the film-noir genre: 1950’s Sunset Blvd. and 1944’s Double Indemnity. I watched this film for the first time in November (also known as Noirvember) and I was blown away by how wonderful it was. Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson is perhaps the greatest of all femme fatales. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, but failed to win a single award: Best Sound, Best Score, Best B&W Cinematography, Best Screenplay. Best Actress Barbra Stanwyck, Best Director and Best Picture. It was up against Gaslight, Since You Went Away, Wilson and winner Going My Way. I think Going My Way‘s win is a testament to its star Bing Crosby’s popularity. It’s a film that, other than Crosby’s performance, has not aged well; whereas the popularity and critical acclaim for Double Indemnity has continued to grow throughout the decades. In fact, the film found its way on to several of the American Film Institute’s 100 years… series: 100 Years…100 Movies #38 (1998), 100 Years…100 Thrills #24 (2001), 100 Years…100 Passions #84 (2002), 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains: Phyllis Dietrichson, villain #8 (2003), 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #29 (2007).