meet cute

Zippy continues his fixation on Barbara Stanwyck movies. Yesterday it was Stella Dallas (1937), today it’s Double Indemnity (1944):


On the career of Babrbara Stanwyck:

Barbara Stanwyck (July 16, 1907 – January 20, 1990) [born Ruby Catherine Stevens] was an American actress. She was a film and television star, known during her 60-year career as a consummate and versatile professional with a strong, realistic screen presence, and a favorite of directors including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang and Frank Capra. After a short but notable career as a stage actress in the late 1920s, she made 85 films in 38 years in Hollywood, before turning to television.

… Stanwyck’s first sound film was The Locked Door (1929), followed by Mexicali Rose, released in the same year. Neither film was successful; nonetheless, Frank Capra chose Stanwyck for his Ladies of Leisure (1930). Numerous prominent roles followed, among them the children’s nurse who saves two little girls from being gradually starved to death by a vicious Clark Gable in Night Nurse (1931); a valiant midwest farm woman in So Big! (1932); Shopworn 1932; the ambitious woman from “the wrong side of the tracks” in Baby Face (1933); the self-sacrificing title character in Stella Dallas (1937); Molly Monahan in Union Pacific (1939) with Joel McCrea; the con artist who falls for her would-be victim (played by Henry Fonda) in The Lady Eve (1941); a nightclub performer who gives a professor (played by Gary Cooper) understanding of “modern English” in the comedy Ball of Fire (1941); the woman who talks an infatuated insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) into killing her husband in Double Indemnity (1944); the columnist caught up in white lies and Christmas romance in Christmas in Connecticut (1945); and the doomed wife in Sorry, Wrong Number (1948). She also played a doomed concert pianist in The Other Love (1947); the piano music was played by Ania Dorfmann, who drilled Stanwyck for three hours a day until she was able to move her arms and hands to match the music. (link)

And on the movie:

Double Indemnity is a 1944 American film noir, directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, and produced by Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Sistrom. The script was based on James M. Cain’s 1943 novella of the same title which originally appeared as an eight-part serial in Liberty magazine.

The film stars Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman, Barbara Stanwyck as a provocative housewife who wishes her husband were dead, and Edward G. Robinson as a claims adjuster whose job is to find phony claims. The term double indemnity refers to a clause in certain life insurance policies that doubles the payout in cases when death is caused by accidental means.

…Widely regarded as a classic, it is often cited as a paradigmatic film noir and as having set the standard for the films that followed in that genre. (link)

Stanwyck and MacMurray in the film:


Finally, on the idiom meet cute (in which cute functions as an adverb), first from Wikipedia:

A meet-cute is a term sometimes used to describe a situation in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.

This type of situation is a staple of romantic comedies, commonly involving contrived, unusual, or comic circumstances. The technique creates an artificial situation contrived by the filmmakers in order to bring together characters in a theoretically entertaining manner. Frequently the meet-cute leads to a humorous clash of personalities or beliefs, embarrassing situations, or comical misunderstandings that further drive the plot.

The term is widely used by screenwriters. Billy Wilder uses it in a 1996 Paris Review interview, in reference to his 1938 screwball comedy film Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, adding that the concept was “a staple of romantic comedies back then”.

Film critics such as Roger Ebert or the Associated Press’ Christy Lemire popularized the term in their reviews.

then from OED3 (June 2001), which takes it back at least to 1941 (in a quote that presupposes that it was already in use among screenwriters):

to meet cute: (in film-makers’ jargon, of two characters) to have an accidental meeting which leads to or is followed by romantic involvement.

1941   A. Boucher Case of Solid Key iii. 49   Last night was nice, but this is today. We met cute, as they say in story conferences; but people don’t live cute.

1956   G. Axelrod Will Success spoil Rock Hunter? 82   Irving: Dear boy, the beginning of a movie is childishly simple. The boy and girl meet. The only important thing to remember is that — in a movie — the boy and the girl must meet in some cute way. They like normal people at, perhaps, a cocktail party or some other social function. No. It is terribly important that they meet cute.

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