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Double Indemnity

A Classic Film Noir Presentation
at Friday Night Movies:

Double Indemnity


Friday the 10th of November

I killed him for money and for a woman. I didn't get the money... and I didn't get the woman.
--Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray)

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USA: 1944 -- Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler
Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck & Edward G. Robinson

How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?
--Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff


Director Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard) and writer Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) adapted James M. Cain's hard-boiled novel into this wildly thrilling story of insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who schemes the perfect murder with the beautiful dame Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck): kill Dietrichson's husband and make off with the insurance money. But, of course, in these plots things never quite go as planned, and Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) is the wily insurance investigator who must sort things out. From the opening scene you know Neff is doomed, as the story is told in flashback; yet, to the film's credit, this doesn't diminish any of the tension of the movie. This early film noir flick is wonderfully campy by today's standards, and the dialogue is snappy ("I thought you were smarter than the rest, Walter. But I was wrong. You're not smarter, just a little taller"), filled with lots of "dame"s and "baby"s. Stanwyck is the ultimate femme fatale, and MacMurray, despite a career largely defined by roles as a softy (notably in the TV series My Three Sons and the movie The Shaggy Dog), is convincingly cast against type as the hapless, love-struck sap.

Hope to see you there. I'll save you an aisle seat and an insurance rider.


Awards

Nominated for 7 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Screenplay (Raymond Chandler & Billy Wilder), Best Black-and-White Cinematography, Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and Best Sound Recording

Ranks #61 on the Internet Movie Database's Top 250 Movies

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Memorable Quotes

Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don't you drop by tomorrow evening about eight-thirty. He'll be in then.
Walter Neff: Who?
Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him weren't you?
Walter Neff: Yeah, I was, but I'm sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.
Phyllis: There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.
Walter Neff: How fast was I going, officer?
Phyllis: I'd say around ninety.
Walter Neff: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Walter Neff: Suppose it doesn't take.
Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Walter Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder.
Walter Neff: That tears it.

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Trivia

When Raymond Chandler began writing the script with Billy Wilder, he hated the experience so much, he actually walked out on the job and would not return unless his list of demands was met. The demand were met and this script is the result.

The character Walter Neff was originally named Walter Ness, but director/writer Billy Wilder found out that there was a man living in Beverly Hills named Walter Ness who was actually an insurance salesman. To avoid being sued for defamation of character, they changed the name.

The blonde wig that Barbara Stanwyck is wearing throughout the movie was the idea of Billy Wilder. A month into shooting Wilder suddenly realized how bad it looked, but by then it was too late to re-shoot the earlier scenes. To rationalize this mistake, in later interviews Wilder claimed that the bad-looking wig was intentional.

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Goofs

The door to Neff's apartment opens away from, rather than toward, the apartment. This was a violation of the Los Angeles Fire Code. (Billy Wilder knew this, but could not change the door because of the crucial scene where Phyllis is hiding behind the door in the hallway.)

Although set in 1938, Walter Neff makes reference to the "The Philadelphia Story", which did not debut on Broadway until 1939, and on film until 1940. In addition, at Stanwyck's house the radio is playing "Tangerine" which wasn't written until 1942.

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Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck