Crystal, the lover of classic films behind the blog In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, is a huge fan of Barbra Stanwyk. To celebrate the anniversary of her passing, Crystal is hosting the The Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon, and invited me to join in on the fun. Not having much experience with Stanwyk, I was more than happy to join in! Having heard good things about Double Indemnity, I decided now was the perfect time to check out this classic. Check out the rest of the entries in the blogathon here.
Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), an insurance salesman, falls for the beautiful Phyllis Dietrichson(Barbra Stanwyck). Unhappy with her marriage, she convinces him to kill her husband and collect the insurance money.
I didn’t know much about Double Indemnity going into it other than the main character was an insurance salesman. So you could say I didn’t have any expectations for the film. In the end, it was a good thing I didn’t have any expectations because any that I would have had would have been crushed.
Double Indemnity primarily focuses on two characters: Walter Neff, played by Fred MacMurray, and Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbra Stanwyck. When the movie starts, Walter is a good man. He is actually kind of a bad-ass. He is quick witted, full of self confidence, and always has a match ready to light a smoke. MacMurray fills the role perfectly. He has no problem portraying the confident salesman, the gentle lover, or the cold-hearted murderer.
On the other side of the coin, there is Phyllis. When we first meet Phyllis, she doesn’t seem very threatening. As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that she is more dangerous than she seems. Phyllis is a sultry woman, you almost don’t expect her to have this killer instinct. Stanwyk breaths a lot of life to this femme fetale. One moment she is all over Walter, then the next she is straight-faced and ready to kill her husband.
The movie is narrated by Walter in classic noir style. This was a double-edged sword because it somehow both removed and created tension. It created tension because I already knew he was going to get caught. Throughout the movie he kept trying to stay one step ahead Barton Keyes, the man responsible for catching insurance fraud. So every scene I kept thinking “will this be the moment?” But at the same time, since I knew he was narrating, whatever trouble Walter got into, chances are he would have gotten out of it.
I thought Double Indemnity is GREAT :-D. Fred MacMurray and Barbra Stanwyck were simply electric as the two leads. Walter trying to stay ahead of his pursuer made for some pretty tense moments. However, knowing that he was going to get out of whatever trouble he was in removed some of the tension. I don’t have much experience with noir films and this felt like a great introduction to the genre.
Phyllis Dietrichson: Nettie, show Mr. Neff to the living room.
Walter Neff: Where would the living room be?
Nettie: In there. But they keep the liquor locked up.
Walter: That’s alright. I always carry my own keys.
Cast & Crew
Bill Wilder – Director / Screenplay
Raymond Chandler – Screenplay
Miklos Rozsa – Composer
Fred MacMurray – Walter Neff
Barbra Stanwyck – Phyllis Dietrichson
Edward G. Robinson – Barton Keyes
Porter Hall – Mr. Jackson
Jean Heather – Lola Dietrichson
Tom Powers – Mr. Dietrichson
Byron Bar – Nino Zachetti
Richard Gaines – Edward S. Norton, Jr.
Fortunio Bonanova – Sam Garlopis
John Philliber – Joe Peters