Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler
Based on the novel by James M. Cain
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson
When Walter Neff (MacMurray) arrives at the Dietrichson home, he’s only there to sell some insurance. After meeting the unhappily married Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck), Neff finds himself in the middle of a murder plot. As Walter and Phyllis lay the groundwork for their scheme, they make sure to cover every angle. After they carry out their plan the pair begin to look to the future, but their hopes are put on hold by Walter’s intuitive boss (Robinson). Now there are questions being raised that threaten everything they’ve planned for.
In 1943, James M. Cain (Mildred Pierce) published Double Indemnity, an eight-part serial that would later be released as a novel. This novel became the basis of a screenplay written with the combined efforts of Billy Wilder (Sunset Blvd.) and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep). Wilder would also direct this film, which he considered to be one of his best. The film eventually earned seven Academy Award nominations, but lost out on all of them. This included nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Score, and Best Sound Recording.
This film features a talented cast of actors who each brought their own unique style to the film. Fred MacMurray (The Apartment) is incredible in this movie. Before his days as the popular television dad on My Three Sons, MacMurray was best known for his roles as a criminal or shady individual. This is one of his darkest roles, and one of his best. Barbara Stanwyck (The Lady Eve) is equally wonderful in this movie. Her performance as the femme fatale is perfect for this story. Last, but not least, is Edward G. Robinson (Key Largo). This incredible actor brings a sense of balance to this film that’s much-needed. His performance is also incredible in this film. Together, these three actors make this a classic film.
This movie is also visually splendid. The use of light and shadows throughout the movie play perfectly with the story. The camera work feels deliberate and precise. Thanks to great direction, the movie also seems to avoid anything unnecessary from making it to the screen. The urbanized world of Los Angeles is wonderfully captured through great location choices and set design. Like many other noir films, this movie even seems to make all the right costuming decisions. In particular, the blond wig used for Stanwyck adds a slightly questionable element to Stanwyck’s character. According to Billy Wilder this was chosen to amplify “the phoniness of the girl – Bad taste, phony wig.”
If you’re a fan of film noir, this is a must-see movie. The story is powerful, and told perfectly throughout the film. The acting is also great, so fans of the stars should make sure to check this one out. I would also recommend this to anyone unfamiliar with the genre of film noir, it’s a great place to start out. This is a great film for fans of crime, drama, or suspense. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.