It’s time to share the gift of noir for MovieMovieBlogBlog’s A Movie Gift to You Blogathon. Our challenge is to choose a film and a recipient and share the goodness. It took me some time to decide what movie and to whom I’d give it, for if it were anyone real and alive, I’d just give them a DVD. Instead, here is my choice:
Dear Ms. Stanwyck,
Your contributions to film noir are the stuff of legend. You took your personal strength, atypical beauty, and charismatic talent and powered your way through many amazing noir and noirish roles, from the ruthless and reckless Phyllis Dietrichson to the troubled and troubling Martha Ivers — along with a sumptuous handful of other dynamite dames before and after. Even in Lady of Burlesque and Ball of Fire the future femme fatale can be seen.
I say this not to flatter you, for you are dead, after all, and I don’t believe in an afterlife — especially not one in which you read this post from some shining heaven or tranquil Elysium. No, I simply speak the truth: from the flickering black-and-white screen, you have appeared from the glittering Hollywood past and given me many an afternoon’s diversion and even more delicious nights.
That said, I don’t know what kind of pleasure you might be most interested in giving me, if you were disposed to consider me. Your sexual orientation remains a complex subject to this day, with heated discussions over your Wikipedia page and rumors and surmises in numerous popular articles and scholarly tomes. Were your marriages “lavender,” as they were termed back in the day? Did you have a long-term closeted relationship with your “live-in girl Friday,” Helen Ferguson? I’ll never know and I’d never ask you such things, even if you were alive and in my living room right now, waiting for me to recommend a film as a holiday gift.
But I confess I am swayed by the rumors and gossip I’ve read about, at least to assume you had some bisexual interests, however much or little you may have acted upon desires for women. And this combination of your rich work in film noir and your richly ambiguous sex life leads me to give you the movie gift of the Wachowskis triumphant first film, Bound.
You missed its release by only six years. I imagine — or want to imagine — you’d love this modern noir homage in which the bimbo is the femme fatale and the “hitman” is her secret lover. I’d ask if Pantoliano as Caesar reminds you of Richard Widmark or maybe Dan Duryea, even as I turned away from the excessive violence and blood. I like to think you’d enjoy the way the women take control. And I hope you’d applaud — as I do — at the happy ending.
So, here is your holiday gift, and may it give you even a tiny portion of the pleasure your work has given me.