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Watch now. A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return.

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A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down. A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. Phyllis proposes to kill her husband to receive the proceeds of an accident insurance policy and Walter devises a scheme to receive twice the amount based on a double indemnity clause.

When Mr. Dietrichson is found dead on a train track, the police accept the determination of accidental death. However, the insurance analyst and Walter's best friend Barton Keyes does not buy the story and suspects that Phyllis has murdered her husband with the help of another man. There are occasional times when all the elements come together to make a great film that will stand the passing of time. First, there was a great novel by one of America's best mystery writers, James Cain, who created these characters that seem will live forever in our imagination.

Then, the lucky break in getting the right man to direct it, Billy Wilder, a man who knew about how to make a classic out of the material that he adapted with great care and elegance with Raymond Chandler, a man who knew about the genre. There is a greedy woman trapped in a bad marriage, who sees the opportunity when she encounters an insurance agent who is instantly smitten with her and who has only sex in his mind.

Double Indemnity | ACMI

The manipulator, Phyllis Dietrichson, doesn't need much to see how Walter desires her. His idea of having her husband sign an insurance policy he knows nothing about, thinking he is doing something else, will prove a fatal flaw in judgment. Wilder achieves in this film what others try, with disastrous results.

The director, who was working under the old Hays Code, shows so much sex in the film with fully clothed actors, yet one feels the heat exuding from the passion Walter Neff feels for Phyllis.

He is a man that will throw everything away because he is blinded by the promise of what his life will be once the husband is out of the picture. In life, as well as in fiction, there are small and insignificant things that will derail the best laid plans. First, there i Jackson, the man who shouldn't have been smoking at the rear of the train, contemplating the passing landscape.

Then, no one counts in the ability of Barton Keys, the man in the agency who has seen it all! Walter and Phyllis didn't take that into consideration and it will backfire on their plan. We try to make a point to take a look at "Double Indemnity" when it shows on cable from time to time. Barbara Stanwyck makes a magnificent Phyllis. There are no false movements in her performance. Phyllis gets under Walter's skin because she knows where her priorities lie and makes good use of them in order to render Walter helpless under her spell.

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Fred McMurray makes a perfect Walter. He is consumed by his passion and he will do anything because of what he perceives will be the reward for doing the crime. Walter Neff was perhaps Mr. McMurray's best creation. He is completely believable and vulnerable. Edgar G. Robinson, as Barton Keys, makes one of his best performances for the screen.


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Keys is a man that has seen all the schemes pass by his desk. He is, in a way, Walter's worst nightmare, because working next to Keys, he gets to know how wrong he was in the planning of the crime. The supporting cast is excellent. The music score of Miklos Rosza gives the film a texture and a dimension that capitalizes on the action it intends to enhance.

Also the music of Cesar Franck and Franz Schubert contribute to the atmosphere of the movie. The great cinematography of John Seitz, who will go on to direct films, is another asset in the movie. Edith Head's costumes are absolutely what a woman like Phyllis would wear right down to her ankle bracelet. This film shows a great man at his best: Billy Wilder! Start your free trial. Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet! IMDb More. Keep track of everything you watch; tell your friends. Full Cast and Crew.

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Classic 40s Movie: “Double Indemnity”

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Why I love Barbara Stanwyck’s performance in Double Indemnity

Alternate Versions. Rate This. She was small, and had on a suit of blue house pyjamas. She had a washed-out look. How do you make one of the most famous women in Hollywood ordinary? Yet in a remarkably knowing piece of casting against type, Stanwyck gave a performance that opened up her own range and ultimately defined exactly how to play the sort of evil temptresses that dominated film noir during this period.

Double Indemnity has a hard edge, not least because Cain based it on a real-life murder committed by Ruth Snyder in the s. The image of her execution on the electric chair on the front page of an edition of The Daily News is one of the most startling photographs of the Depression era.

One of the most effective aspects of the film comes from the real-life scenario that inspired it: the murder was committed by ordinary, almost banal looking people. Tellingly, we barely see Phyllis in her first shot, half seen upstairs in a towel. Her image at the time was glamorous, soft focussed, a pinnacle of sensual eroticism and yet simultaneously maternal.

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Would playing a ruthless killer of Joe Schmucks really damage her reputation? Wilder works well with her on the creation of Phyllis, a character that ironically seems to mimic the sort of Hollywood Hills prestige that Stanwyck herself was the epitome of. But she brilliantly gets it wrong. She wears an ill-fitting wig that brings out the contours of her face and dresses halfway between lazy lounge lizard and jaded housewife trying to retain youthful vibrancy. All of it is contrived, but effectively so. She knew about it herself, plenty. Within all of these high-shouldered trouser suits, pyjamas and indulgent faux-mourning clothing is Stanwyck herself.

Behind this persona, sultry and alarming, lies a coldness. Stanwyck uses all of that silver screen allure, a heroine image built over a decade of such roles. She was not a natural fit for the role of a killer; a grafter perhaps but not a manipulator like Phyllis. And yet Wilder could see perfectly well how an inversion of her on-screen persona could work.