Sunday, February 3, 2013

Noir killers, family men, Methodist clergy, and debauched authors

Here's an old CBC interview with Somerset Maugham, possibly 'the most debauched man of the 20th century',whom Ward Cleaver held up as a model for his youngest son.

One of Maugham's novels was the basis for a 1944 noir film called Christmas Holiday.

Speaking of noir, Ward -- er, Hugh Beaumont -- was in several noir films, joining the ranks of actors who were known for their TV roles as loving parents but who had earlier played murderers. He was a 'confident sociopath' in Money Madness and starred in Apology for Murder, a cheap knockoff of Double Indemnity (which featured another of TV's loving parents). Outside the movies, Beaumont was an ordained Methodist minister.

That last movie, Double Indemnity, was based on a novel by James M. Cain. Here's a quotation from Steve Erickson's article on James M. Cain:
Noir was to cinema as punk was to rock and roll. European refugees like Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak, and Billy Wilder brought with them a worldview forged of equal parts German Expressionism and Nazi barbarity.
Siodmak directed the aforementioned Christmas Holiday, which was about a prostitute who married a murderer, the latter role being played by Gene Kelly. So, Gene Kelly, Hugh Beaumont, and Fred MacMurray all had roles as noir killers.

Like another noir movie that was adapted from Maugham's work, Christmas Holiday was altered to accommodate the Hays Code. Rain (1932) was not.

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