A rich woman and a calculating insurance agent plot to kill her unsuspecting husband after he signs a double indemnity policy. Against a backdrop of distinctly Californian settings, the partners in crime plan the perfect murder to collect the insurance, which pays double if the death is accidental.
- Walter Neff: Fred MacMurray
- Phyllis Dietrichson: Barbara Stanwyck
- Barton Keyes: Edward G. Robinson
- Mr. Jackson: Porter Hall
- Edward S. Norton Jr.: Richard Gaines
- Lola Dietrichson: Jean Heather
- Mr. Dietrichson: Tom Powers
- Sam Garlopis: Fortunio Bonanova
- Nino Zachetti: Byron Barr
- Bit Part (uncredited): John Berry
- Man Reading Book (uncredited): Raymond Chandler
- Train Conductor (uncredited): Edmund Cobb
- Conductor (uncredited): Kernan Cripps
- Norton’s Secretary: Bess Flowers
- Man in Drug Store (uncredited): Eddie Hall
- Pacific All-Risk Telephone Operator (uncredited): Teala Loring
- Charlie the Garage Attendant (uncredited): Sam McDaniel
- Pullman Porter (uncredited): Billy Mitchell
- Man (uncredited): Clarence Muse
- Lou Schwartz (uncredited): Douglas Spencer
- Joe Peters: John Philliber
- Redcap: Harold Garrison
- Pullman Porter (uncredited): James Adamson
- Dietrichsons’ Maid Nettie (uncredited): Betty Farrington
- Man (uncredited): George Magrill
- Fat Shopper in Market (uncredited): Constance Purdy
- Pullman Conductor (uncredited): Dick Rush
- Pullman Porter (uncredited): Floyd Shackelford
- Pullman Porter (uncredited): Oscar Smith
- Keyes’ Secretary (uncredited): Miriam Nelson
- Director: Billy Wilder
- Supervising Film Editor: Doane Harrison
- Producer: Joseph Sistrom
- Costume Design: Edith Head
- Art Direction: Hal Pereira
- Original Music Composer: Miklós Rózsa
- Makeup Artist: Wally Westmore
- Director of Photography: John F. Seitz
- Art Direction: Hans Dreier
- Screenplay: Raymond Chandler
- Orchestrator: Eugene Zador
- Novel: James M. Cain
- Executive Producer: Buddy G. DeSylva
- Set Decoration: Bertram C. Granger
- Casting: Harvey Clermont
- Sound Re-Recording Mixer: Walter Oberst
- Dialect Coach: Jack Gage
- Makeup Artist: Robert Ewing
- Visual Effects: Farciot Edouart
- Sound Recordist: Stanley Cooley
- Assistant Director: Charles C. Coleman
- Makeup Artist: Charles Gemora
- Still Photographer: Ed Henderson
- Hairstylist: Hollis Barnes
- Sound Recordist: Loren L. Ryder
- Props: Jack Colconda
- Camera Operator: Harlow Stengel
- talisencrw: It’s definitely hard to pin down a personal favourite Wilder film, though I tend towards his earlier masterworks such as ‘The Lost Weekend’, ‘Sunset Boulevard’…and THIS. He was one of the finest at getting straight through the bullshit and to the heart of all things noir (as the immortal Jean-Luc Godard stated, ‘All I need to make a film is a man, a girl and a gun’).
Barbara Stanwyck is one of my favourite actresses of the period, and is a classic ‘femme fatale’. I’ve never been a huge fan of Fred MacMurray, but his ‘nice guy’ persona is used to sheer advantage by Wilder, and he end up both doing his finest work for Wilder (here and in ‘The Apartment’) and being the ultimate noir male protagonist. Interestingly, one of my favourite actors, Edward G. Robinson, thought so much of the script that he opted out of his demand of never doing a supporting role. Many people admire Wilder the director, but as a writer (or co-writer) he’s just as cinematically important and influential.
Like any other film of his, at least that I’ve had the pleasure to see, it’s worth a purchase and re-watches. The dialogue, especially, is simply fantastic. I’d take just one of his early works over a hundred of the films Hollywood churns out nowadays. They’re simply that better and intrinsically satisfying. Immortal cinema.
- John Chard: A banner movie from film noir’s classic era.
Double Indemnity is directed by Billy Wilder and Wilder co-adapts the screenplay with Raymond Chandler from the novella written by James M. Cain. It stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Music is by Miklos Rozsa and cinematography by John F. Seitz.
For a film lover such as myself it feels redundant writing a review for Double Indemnity, because quite simply there’s nothing to say that hasn’t been said already. The esteem it is held in is justified, it’s a razor sharp noir across the board and can be put up as one of the classic noir era pictures that got lovers of the form interested in the first place.
Based around the infamous Snyder/Gray case of 1927, Wilder and Chandler fill the story with a sinister cynicism that is palpable in the extreme. With a script positively pumped with hard boiled dialogue, a simple case of murder becomes so much more, a labyrinth of devious cunning and foolishness, with a trio of top performances crowning this topper.
Technically via aural and visual work the story gains extra spice. Rosza provides a score that frays the nerves, imbuing the sense of doom and edginess required for plotting. Seitz excels, the photography a trademark for noir, heavy shadows, abrupt camera angles and menacing shards of light come to the fore.
And to top it all off, it gets away with so much, a real censorship baiter. The story takes a journey to the dark side of morality, and the makers, bless them for they know what they do, gleefully tease the production code to give film noir fans a reason to rejoice.
Quintessential stuff. 10/10
- dogstir: Perhaps the single best example of a film noir movie, _Double Indemnity_ (1944), stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson. Based on a novel written by James Cain, the screenplay was co-written by Billy Wilder and the amazing Raymond Chandler.
Set in 1938 California, the story is based on the true-life 1927 murder of a married Queens, New York woman’s husband who was killed by the woman’s boyfriend after she took out a large insurance policy that contained a double-indemnity clause. In this movie, Phyllis Dietrichson (played by Stanwyck) takes out a life insurance policy on her husband with the help of insurance salesman-soon-to-be-turned-murderer Walter Neff (played by MacMurray). Robinson plays Barton Keyes, Neff’s co-worker and a very suspicious claims adjuster who suspects Phyllis Dietrichson might have had something to do with her husband’s sudden death.
This movie is an hour and forty-seven minutes of pure movie love. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards [Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Director, Best Writing-Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Recording, and Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture)], though it won none.