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THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS


HoldenIsHere
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I agree with Eddie Muller: How did the ending of THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS get past the Production Code in 1946?

Well she is technically responsible for a death early in the film. According to the code, crime cannot pay. So she had to die at the end.

 

What exactly was Muller's reasoning ?

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The final death scene for "Missy" has some similarity to the one in DOUBLE INDEMNITY.  Maybe once a precedent is set (letting DI be acceptable) it's hard to argue against a similar scene.  Kirk  then turning the gun on himself takes it a step further.

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Well she is technically responsible for a death early in the film. According to the code, crime cannot pay. So she had to die at the end.

 

What exactly was Muller's reasoning ?

 

 

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

 

 

Suicide was shown on screen.

This went expressly against the Code.

As Muller noted, it appeared to be a suicide pact.

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Martha is actually responsible for two deaths. Her aunt's ( although I say "Good Riddance !" to the horrid old cow), and the innocent man who was hung for a murder he did not commit.

I've always thought that of the two, letting the tramp be executed for the murder that Martha committed was much more despicable and wicked than whacking the aunt down the stairs.

 

Martha would not have received the death penalty for the killing of her aunt: her young age, along with the fact that there was no premeditated intention, would have gotten Martha off with second-degree murder or even just manslaughter. 

But of course, then we'd have had no movie . (And no Van Heflin, the best thing about the film!)

 

We're not shown the trial of the tramp accused of the aunt's murder, it's not necessary, we're just told that Martha let the tramp's conviction and execution stand without saying a word. Much more contemptible than thumping a poker at her crabby unloving old aunt, who after all, wanted to kill Martha's cat.

 

Perhaps the screenwriters felt Kirk had to die because he knew full well that Martha was the killer, so he was complicit in both concealing a crime and allowing an innocent man to be hung. That kind of guilt would "justify" his suicide in the censor's mind (I think, anyway.)

 

hey, anyone notice that Lizabeth Scott doesn't eat the spaghetti Van ordered for her? Funny to see that spaghetti was such a big deal at the time. People in this kind of movie never eat the food or drink the drinks they order in restaurant scenes  (unless the script calls for them to get drunk, of course...)

 

 

 

 

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*****SPOILER ALERT*****

 

Suicide was shown on screen.

This went expressly against the Code.

As Muller noted, it appeared to be a suicide pact.

I don't think it was a suicide pact. The dialogue leading up to the shooting of Martha by Walter goes against that theory. It's a great scene, though. Btw, weren't there many on-screen suicides in classic-era films? I can think of a few.

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I don't think it was a suicide pact. The dialogue leading up to the shooting of Martha by Walter goes against that theory. It's a great scene, though. Btw, weren't there many on-screen suicides in classic-era films? I can think of a few.

 

 

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

 

RE: the possible suicide pact-----Walter holds the gun against Martha and they pull the trigger together. 

Walter then shoots himself.

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*****SPOILER ALERT*****

 

RE: the possible suicide pact-----Walter holds the gun against Martha and they pull the trigger together. 

Walter then shoots himself.

Yes -- but not so much a pact. She seems to have accepted it at that moment.  Her last line is "You believe me, don't you?" When he takes the gun out, it means he doesn't believe her, so that's her motivation to help pull the trigger.

 

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Yes -- but not so much a pact. She seems to have accepted it at that moment.  Her last line is "You believe me, don't you?" When he takes the gun out, it means he doesn't believe her, so that's her motivation to help pull the trigger.

 

 

To me Walter murders Martha (she only 'helps' at the end since she knows she can't stop him,  either at the moment or in the future),  and Walter than kills himself.

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To me Walter murders Martha (she only 'helps' at the end since she knows she can't stop him,  either at the moment or in the future),  and Walter than kills himself.

Or you might use the word "executes." In any case, it's a bizarrely sexual scene for a murder!

 

Btw, there was a conversation on the Board a while back as to whether Agnes Moorehead (Madge) commits suicide or accidentally falls out of the window at the end of Dark Passage. I looked at it again -- it's definitely an on-screen suicide.

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I agree with Eddie Muller: How did the ending of THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS get past the Production Code in 1946?

Two ideas:

 

The postwar climate was different, and the following year would see a lot of DARK films that skirted the code: the world was growing up, and films started reflecting it.

 

Lewis Milestone- who directed MARTHA IVERS- had won 2 oscars, both for direction, one for ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, which was (and is) well regarded; so he had some clout.

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I've always thought the ending was silly. Two powerful political rich people who own half the town wouldn't do what they did at the end, just because of what happened when they were young kids.

Actually, the deaths seem more to do with their relationship than with the early murder.  

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Actually, the deaths seem more to do with their relationship than with the early murder.  

I think so, too-- though the early murder still haunts them. But more than anything, the ending is the way it is because of the code. They both had to be punished-- either by jailing or death-- in order to satisfy the morality imposed on the story by the production office.

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It seems then that Stanwyck should have just arranged for Kirk's car to go off a cliff somewhere.

 

Martha already tried to get Sam to murder Walter.   Sam makes Walter aware of this.   Walter was going to kill Martha for trying to have himself killed, period.    Therefore Martha was doomed,  but Walter could have tried to pin the death of Martha on Sam.  Being the DA and all,  Walter might have gotten away with that,  but Walter really loved Martha.   Martha was his whole reason for being so he ended his own life instead of trying to make Sam the scapegoat.

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I think besides the weak performance by Lizabeth Scott, which isn't entirely her fault because it's a terrible role, the biggest fault with MARTHA IVERS is that the final scene with Douglas and Stanwyck is so shamelessly derivative of the scene between McMurray and Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY (and not quite as artfully done.)

 

(of course it's also worth noting that INDEMNITY has been preserved and restored, whereas MARTHA IVERS has lingered in the public domain - the print they showed last night on TCM seemed even dirtier and weaker than ones they've shown in the past- and these things do make a difference.)

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it's also worth noting that the section of Eddie Muller's film noir book DARK CITY in which MARTHA IVERS is profiled is called HATE STREET- and deals with noirs set in small town America.

 

I've always thought HATE STREET would maybe be a better title for the film than THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (a title which one could perhaps confuse with a romantic comedy.)

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I think besides the weak performance by Lizabeth Scott, which isn't entirely her fault because it's a terrible role, the biggest fault with MARTHA IVERS is that the final scene with Douglas and Stanwyck is so shamelessly derivative of the scene between McMurray and Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY (and not quite as artfully done.)

 

(of course it's also worth noting that INDEMNITY has been preserved and restored, whereas MARTHA IVERS has lingered in the public domain - the print they showed last night on TCM seemed even dirtier and weaker than ones they've shown in the past- and these things do make a difference.)

I actually like the similar scene more in Ivers mainly how we see it like Sam does through the outside. I thought it was beautifully shot.

 

That being said there is no question that Double Indemnity is the superior film but then Double Indemnity is also one of the quintessential noirs.

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I actually like the similar scene more in Ivers mainly how we see it like Sam does through the outside. I thought it was beautifully shot.

 

That being said there is no question that Double Indemnity is the superior film but then Double Indemnity is also one of the quintessential noirs.

first part - that's part of the shame about MARTHA IVERS being in the public domain and the print thusly deteriorating, for me at least it's hard to fully respect the artistry if what's left to look at it is not in the best shape.

 

second part - I know, I'm so bummed out: i think I've missed my chance to see DOUBLE INDEMNITY on the bigscreen & I really wanted to, just been busy.

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I think besides the weak performance by Lizabeth Scott, which isn't entirely her fault because it's a terrible role, the biggest fault with MARTHA IVERS is that the final scene with Douglas and Stanwyck is so shamelessly derivative of the scene between McMurray and Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY (and not quite as artfully done.)

 

(of course it's also worth noting that INDEMNITY has been preserved and restored, whereas MARTHA IVERS has lingered in the public domain - the print they showed last night on TCM seemed even dirtier and weaker than ones they've shown in the past- and these things do make a difference.)

I don't see Lizabeth Scott's performance as weak and it definitely adds to the movie.  I think she performed it as written and as directed - a weak person in a town of strong people.

I also didn't appreciate the significance of Van Heflin's performance until then as well.

It wasn't until the third time I watched it that I really began to appreciate it.  It's one of those movies to which you need to pay attention.

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Two ideas:

 

The postwar climate was different, and the following year would see a lot of DARK films that skirted the code: the world was growing up, and films started reflecting it.

 

Lewis Milestone- who directed MARTHA IVERS- had won 2 oscars, both for direction, one for ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, which was (and is) well regarded; so he had some clout.

 

Yes, I think clout definitely allowed the code to be skirted in a few cases.

It was the clout of Edward Albee's play that allowed the code-imposed language barrier to be broken in such a blatant way in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?  --- and of course in so doing led to the end of the code itself.

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