I’ve twice tried to watch Anatole Litvak‘s Sorry, Wrong Number, a classic 1948 noir starring Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Wendell Corey, Ed Begley, etc. But both times the anxious, borderline-hysterical tone has pushed me away.

Stanwyck’s agitated performance as a spoiled heiress, “good” as it is, is especially difficult to weather. And Lancaster is always sweating and wild-eyed and pleading.

What a jagged-edge world in which to live…what a needling hellscape. Never a gentle word or peaceful interlude, never a moment in which Stanwyck or Lancaster or anyone takes a breather or offers a witty line or laughs at a joke or savors a nice piece of music.

Am I losing my appetite for film noir? I don’t think so. I’ll love Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, The Killers, Gun Crazy, Ace in the Hole, This Gun For Hire, D.O.A., Laura and Out of the Past until the day I die. Partly because all of these films offer little slices of wit and humor and even joie de vivre from time to time. I’m just not a Sorry, Wrong Number type of guy, and that’s fine.