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In the last ‘Great Scenes’ post, we watched Cary Grant big facing Katharine Hepburn until she almost passed out from arousal. This time, we take a look at how deftly Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) handles Phyllis Dietrichson’s (Barbara Stanwyck) shit tests (and in the process practically invents film noir).
Phyllis (0:02): My husband! You were anxious to talk to him, weren’t you?
Walter (0:05): Yeah I was, but ah, I’m sort of getting over the idea if you know what I mean.
First shit test passed. She expected him to buckle when she introduced a competitive male threat, as most females are wont to do. (‘Let’s you and him fight’ is a convenient ploy used by women to separate the alpha wheat from the beta chaff.)
Phyllis (0:10): There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. 45 miles an hour.
Walter (0:13): How fast was I going officer?
Pitch perfect. Role playing is catnip to chicks. If you only remember one rule of game, it’s this: Never take her seriously.
Phyllis (0:15): I’d say around 90.
It’s ironic that back in the day when overt sex talk was more culturally censored than it is today, a flirty conversation between a man and woman could contain so much more sexual tension.
Walter (0:17): Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Great working definition of an alpha male: He is the one who has an answer for everything. Also note the subtle de-pedestalization in this line.
Phyllis (0:19): Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Walter (0:21): Suppose it doesn’t take.
Notice how Walter is increasing the voltage of his replies. When volleying a swarm of shit tests, you’ll want to get progressively edgier (*not* angrier), following the beat of your prey’s seductive syncopation. Imagine a woman slowly withering under your powerful presence, your magnetic pull getting stronger with each quip, until you deliver the ego killing blow like a Final Fantasy finishing move.
Phyllis (0:23): Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
This chick is unstoppable.
Walter (0:26): Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Vulnerability game from a position of strength. Sarcastic bravos!
Phyllis (0:29): Suppose you try putting it on my husband’s shoulder.
“I have a boyfriend”. One thing you’ll notice after you get a lot of experience with women is that they often turn nastiest right before they succumb. It’s as if with one foul push of cuntery they can silence the screaming of the tingles.
Walter (0:32): That tears it.
A beta, once he gets in a groove with a woman, is likely to spin that tune until it’s worn-out. An alpha knows when to cut the action. And when he’s beaten, he doesn’t sulk. Watch Walter as he turns away from Phyllis with a grin on his face. He knows he got to her.
Walter (0:38): Eight-thirty tomorrow evening then.
A question posed as a statement. Commanding.
Phyllis (0:40): That’s what I suggested.
Walter (0:41): You be here too?
Phyllis (0:42): I guess so, I usually am.
Walter (0:44): Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
The game never stops playing, even when she does. Every word, every glance, every interaction is an opportunity for game. Noticing tiny details of a woman besides her physical features (e.g., anklet) is a powerful tool in the alpha’s arsenal. Translated into womanese, it means “I could notice every detail of your 152 erogenous zones”.
Phyllis (0:46): I wonder if I know what you mean.
Walter (0:49): I wonder if you wonder.
Donned hat, smirk, staredown. This is a man who’s letting her know she didn’t rattle him. Just the opposite, in fact.