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booksmusicfilmsTV.com/Peace & Freedom Press Classic Film Reviews
One of the greatest films of the 1940s, and one of the greats of film noir, 'Double Indemnity' sees Fred MacMurray as weak insurance agent Walter Neff, who is manipulated by Barbara Stanwyck's cruel Phyllis Dietrichson. Ms. Stanwyck, like Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, were strong, independent women half a century before 'Girl Power'. They were 'Women Power', and had the strong roles to match. While this role saw arguably Barbara Stanwyck's finest performance of her film career.
Notable novelist Raymond Chandler was involved in writing 'Double Indemnity', and it shows with lines such as: "How could I have known that murder could smell like honeysuckle." Walter Neff narrates the film, which is punctuated by hip Chandleresque lines, and lots of "I love you, baby".
Dietrichson: "We're both rotten."
Neff falls for Phyllis, who exploits both Neff's position and his desires, in persuading him to kill her husband, and to make it look like an accident. Neff then comes up with the double indemnity suggestion - an unusual accident doubles your money.
Thus an ingenious plan is hatched, and the unfortunate Mr. Dietrichson is killed in his own car by Neff, with Phyllis looking on calmly.
'Double Indemnity' is also unusual because Neff confesses to the murder of Dietrichson at the beginning of the movie, and reveals that he is a 35-year-old unmarried insurance salesman with "no visible scars. Until a while ago, that is..."
Lola (Jean Heather), Mr. Dietrichson's daughter, rumbles Phyllis, who, she believes, also killed her mother. Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), however, takes some time before realising that his friend Neff is involved in the crime.
'Double Indemnity' is 107 minutes of film gold, though it somehow missed out on winning any Oscars. Ms. Stanwyck was nominated for Best Actress, Billy Wilder for Best Director, John F. Seitz for Best Cinematography, Miklós Rózsa for Best Music, Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder for Best Screenplay, and Loren L. Ryder for Best Sound. Produced by Joseph Sistrom, 'Double Indemnity' was also nominated for Best Picture. Critics raved about the film, and many considered 'Double Indemnity' to be the definitive classic of film noir.
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.
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Directed by Billy Wilder
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