Cinema Midterm Paper In this paper I have decided to compare and contrast Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” and Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity”. While screening both these movies in class I came across some noticeable differences between these two films, the main difference was in how women were portrayed and in who exactly was pulling all the strings and was in control the whole time.
In the film “It Happened One Night” Ellie Andrews, played by Claudette Connolly, was put as a somewhat ditzy spoiled daddy’s girl and her character was pretty clueless to the outside world and she needed to be taken care of by someone else, in which in this case that role was filled by the male character Peter Warne, played by Clark Gable. While Ellie was running away from her home, Peter was the one who had her safety in his hands.
He was consistently throughout the movie the one in control by being the one with the plan and providing for the trip. In “Double Indemnity” the female character, Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwych, was made to be a very witty but conniving women who could hold out on her own with nobody else’s help. She would manipulate and use men to do what she wanted or what she asked of them, and in this film she used the male character Walter Neff, played by Fred MacMurray.
She had him carry on her dark deeds by giving him the perception of a romantic relationship being created and even though Neff might have been the one making and organizing the plan for the crime, Phyllis was the one who was the real master mind behind the whole scheme. So in these two films I noticed a complete 180 degrees turn for the gender roles that the characters played. The female character that was independent in one film was dependent in the other and vice versa for the male character. Another difference between the two movies was the promiscuity difference that came from the two female characters in the films.
In “Double Indemnity” Phyllis’s opening scene was her naked coming out of the shower only being covered by a towel greeting Neff as he entered her home, who at that point in time was a total stranger to her, also not to mention the ankle bracelet Phyllis had on and Neff’s big interest and arousal by it. Already off the bat Phyllis in the film was being portrayed as a type of women who breaks the norm of a women’s normal role and who is very sexual towards men to begin her “trap” into manipulating them. In “It Happened One
Night” Ellie was the complete opposite type of character compared to Phyllis, she only but once showed any form of promiscuity towards a complete stranger and even then it was only a part of her leg and her intentions weren’t sexual, they were to simply achieve a ride for her and Peter to get along their way. She would always be well covered up throughout the film and for the most part she kept inside the norm of a women’s role and for that was never severely punished in the movie, which brings me to my 3rd difference between the two films.
For the ending of the two films because the two female characters were on such complete opposite sides of the personality spectrum and since they followed different set of rules they both ended the film very differently from one another. Ellie from “It Happened One Night” ended the film safe and sound in the arms of the man she fell in love with, with a happy ending for her, while Phyllis from “Double Indemnity” was killed by Neff, who I believe she fell in love with at the very last moment, while also laying in his arms but lifeless.
This showed me some similarity between the two directors in which if one breaks out of societies usual norms there can be some severe consequences to that decision, some even fatal. There was one similarity in which I found for the male characters from both films. Both Peter and Neff fell into a very similar gender role in wanting to be the “hero” or “knight in shining armor” for the female characters. They were there every step of the way trying to take care and do right by them but because the women were so different from one another the ending for both of them were different as well.