Noir Nook: Love in the Shadows

Noir Nook: Love in the Shadows

A wise man once said, “Trip over love, you can get up. Fall in love and you fall forever.” In that spirit, and in this season of love, this month’s Noir Nook celebrates three of my favorite dysfunctional noir couples – ladies and gents who loved not too wisely… and not too well, either!

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Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and Joe Gillis (William Holden) in Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Aging silent movie queen Norma initially saw Joe, a struggling writer, simply as a tool for renovating the massive script she was penning as a vehicle for her “return” to the silver screen. But before you could say “Bob’s your uncle,” Norma was head over heels for the hunky Joe – and Joe wasn’t too proud to turn down the material perks of their pairing. Unfortunately for poor Norma, Joe’s heart eventually was captured by another (Nancy Olson). Unfortunately for poor Joe, Norma didn’t take this news lying down, if you know what I mean.

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Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) and Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott) in Mildred Pierce (1945)

Joan Crawford and Zachary Scott in Mildred Pierce (1945)
Joan Crawford and Zachary Scott in Mildred Pierce (1945)

Who wouldn’t fall for Monte Beragon?  In the words of one character, Monte “played polo, went yachting, was an excellent hunter and was seen with the most attractive debutantes in California.” Plus, he was easy on the eyes. Waitress-turned-restauranteur Mildred was a total sucker for Monte’s charms – until he started mooching off of her and proving to be a poor influence on Mildred’s (already irrevocably snooty) daughter, Veda (Ann Blyth). Once the stars had faded from Mildred’s eyes, she didn’t waste any time giving Monte the heave-ho. Good riddance to bad rubbish, right? Not so fast. Unfortunately for nearly everyone involved, Mildred later invited Monte back into her life, using him as part of her desperate scheme to lure her estranged child back to the nest. She’d have been better off leaving them both where they were.

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Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) in Double Indemnity (1944)

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity (1944)
Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity (1944)

What list of noir couples would be complete without Phyllis and Walter? Phyllis first met insurance agent Walter when he stopped by her house as part of his job. But it wasn’t long before business took a back seat to pleasure… and then pleasure took a back seat to murder. These two were made for each other when it came to planning and executing what appeared to be a perfect crime – knocking off Phyllis’s hubby and collecting his life insurance payout. Problem was, they didn’t reckon on the unfailing intuition of Walter’s boss (Edward G. Robinson). They also didn’t foresee the complete disintegration of their relationship, characterized by paranoia, mistrust, and downright animosity. In the end, neither one was left standing.

Who are some of your favorite dysfunctional noir couples?

– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Karen’s Noir Nook articles here.

Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on amazon here:

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