Weekend Film Recommendation: Double Indemnity (1944)

20 May
This week it seemed that you could look anywhere and see an advertisement for the new and innovative video game L.A. Noire, which pays homage to the 1940’s era gritty cop stories like Maltese Falcon and more recently, L.A. Confidential. So it was only fitting to make this weekend’s film recommendation a tribute to what some call the “quintessential” film noir, Double Indemnity. When the film was released in 1944, it broke a lot of taboos for Hollywood, and helped usher in the golden era of noir films, with its devilish damsel, fast-talking cynical characters, trenchcoats and fedoras, and excessive use of the word “baby”.

Give me some sugar, baby.

Double Indemnity tells the story of sad sack, but successful insurance salesman Walter Neff (Frank MacMurray), who falls for the mysterious and sexy Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), while making a door-to-door sale. She seduces and suckers him into a murder scheme to kill her husband, who she recently took out a large insurance policy with a double indemnity clause on, with the promise of sex and money. The plan goes brilliantly until Neff’s co-worker and claims investigator, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) starts to suspect foul play.

 Raymond Chandler, one of the greatest detective fiction authors, helped Billy Wilder adapt the James M. Cain story into a lucrative screenplay, which was originally criticized for its depiction of such depraved characters. The structure of the story creates intrigue from the onset, starting out with an injured Neff dictating the sordid events for a message to be given to his co-worker, and then shifting back to the start of the story. This style was imitated in several other noir films that followed, and repeated by Wilder in Sunset Boulevard. The cinematography also became a staple in film noir, using  shadows to tell the story, and in their own way, shed light upon the characters.

 The lead actors, Stanwyck and MacMurray, were two of the biggest actors in Hollywood at the time, but what is interesting about their roles is that they were both playing against their stereotype. MacMurray was known for his upbeat and charming characters, while Stanwyck usually played static heroine roles. Both were afraid that it would hurt their careers, but instead it proved them as some of the most volatile actors in the biz.

Despite all the efforts of moral protestors, their criticism only spurred more people toward the theater to find out what the fuss was about, and the film was an instant hit. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but went home empty handed. Even though it didn’t win any awards, it still ended up being ranked #38 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Best American Films of the 20th Century, and #29 on the 10th Anniversary list.

Not too shabby, baby.

 To add Double Indemnity to your Netflix Queue, click here.

Trailer:

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Weekend Film Recommendation: Double Indemnity (1944)”

  1. daigoumee May 22, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Weekend Film Recommendation: Double Indemnity (1944) (via Chris and Pac Take on Hollywood) | The Calculable - May 21, 2011

    […] Weekend Film Recommendation: Double Indemnity (1944) (via Chris and Pac Take on Hollywood) Posted on 21 May, 2011 by Jarle Petterson This week it seemed that you could look anywhere and see an advertisement for the new and innovative video game L.A. Noire, which pays homage to the 1940′s era gritty cop stories like Maltese Falcon and more recently, L.A. Confidential. So it was only fitting to make this weekend’s film recommendation a tribute to what some call the “quintessential” film noir, Double Indemnity. When the film was released in 1944, it broke a lot of taboos for Holl … Read More […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: