(Pillaged and edited from Facebook)
Noel Bjorndahl: The shifty elements in Fred MacMurray's screen
persona were best exploited in the two films he made for Billy Wilder, the
outstanding film noir Double Indemnity, and the acerbic
comedy The Apartment. On the other hand, MacMurray did much of his
best work for the shamefully neglected director Mitchell Leisen, whose elegant
films he graced nine times: from Hands Across the Table (1934) to Suddenly
It's Spring (1947). Swing High, Swing Low (USA, 1937), one of the
best of them, has never, to my knowledge, been released on DVD. He was a great
partner for such fine actresses as Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, and
especially Barbara Stanwyck (Remember the Night is one of their
most infectious pairings with its sharp Preston Sturges script and with Leisen as
always at the top of his form directing romantic comedy).
|MacMurray and Stanwyck in Double Indemnity|
|MacMurray in The Apartment|
MacMurray's naturalness and self-effacing understatement suited both his light and dark screen personas-Douglas Sirk exploited the uncertainty behind the cheerful facade tellingly in an unsettling domestic melodrama There's Always Tomorrow with old flame Barbara Stanwyck re-entering his seemingly staid family domicile and upsetting the apple cart: and in Richard Quine's Pushover, a neat noirish crime melo, a kind of a cross between Double Indemnity and Rear Window, he was visibly older and tireder playing the cop going bent to have young and beautiful Kim Novak. David Thomson aptly characterized him as "a romantic lead built on quicksand, a hero compelled to betray, a lover likely to desert". He's surely one of the Hollywood greats.
|Carole Lombard & Fred MacMurray in|
Swing High, Swing Low
MacMurray was only ever as good with Billy Wilder (and once for Richard Quine) as he always was for Leisen. Mitch gave his actors space, room, and affection. He is one of the greatest directors of actors. Although Fred's not it in it, Midnight is my greatest film of 1939 wiping out both Zangiku Monogatari/TheStory of the Last Chrysanthemum (Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan) and La Regle du Jeu (Jean Renoir, France). It's a squeeze for 1939 but Ophuls Sans Lendemain scrapes in second. Stagecoach (John Ford, USA) third etc.
|Publicity Still for There's Always Tomorrow|
Joan Bennett, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck
Noel Bjorndahl David, There's Always Tomorrow is one of the least known of Sirk's stunning creative burst of domestic and romantic melodramas during the middle 50s and early 60s. I was totally engaged with the commentaries and conversations between John Flaus and Adrian Martin in the release of this much neglected film. Sirk's examination of the opposing forces of a staid bourgeois marriage and a passion revived by the intrusion of an old flame is as nuanced and relentless as this rich genre gets. Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck (the old flame) and Joan Bennett (his wife) are all at the top of their form.
MacMurray was a class act. Whatever he did, he did well l- Comedy, Film Noir, Melodrama, Adventure. His best work includes Alice Adams, Remember the Night, Take a Letter Darling, Double Indemnity, Murder He Says, Father Was a Fullback, Pushover, There's Always Tomorrow and The Apartment. He was active from the 30s to the 70s and he was deeply respected by by some of the best directors in the business including Billy Wilder, Mitchell Leisen, George Stevens, John M Stahl, Douglas Sirk, Richard Quine and Henry Hathaway.