Double Indemnity

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(1944, directed by Billy Wilder)

- inducted 2014 –

“It's tough to have a thorough discussion of film noir without mentioning the emblematic Double Indemnity. It has everything: the femme fatale (handy at sex, handier at murder), the cynicism, the shadows cast by Venetian blinds. Billy Wilder and his collaborators squeezed all the elements that tend to define noir into one deadly package, just as that genre was beginning to solidify. Yet I'd go one further than identifying Double Indemnity as a prime exemplar of noir style. I'd call it the single steamiest collision of eros and thanatos ever put to film. No other movie has made sex and death into such natural (and appealing) bedmates.

“Do I risk shedding any semblance of critical detachment if I describe Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck's onscreen interactions as wildly sexy? Very well, then; I risk it, but only because that eroticism is a cornerstone of everything this film accomplishes. It's bound up with the red-hot repartee, the patterns of light and shadow, and that trolley ride to the cemetery Barton Keyes so floridly details. Their mutual attraction pervades Double Indemnity, though it's less like that of two people in love and more like the behavior of apex predators circling one another, each scoping out the other's potential as a mate. What could spring more logically from that relationship than insurance fraud and murder?

“A perverse sensibility leads the film from torrid affair to methodical ‘perfect crime’ without the slightest interruption. It's the very same sensibility that opts to render this lurid material as cold-blooded comedy. The story's told with innuendos, visual punchlines, even a running gag. Film noir as a practice had barely crystallized yet, but here's Double Indemnity flirting with self-parody all the same. Here it is finding humor and grandeur in the same garish Los Angeles architecture. Here, at last, is its grim thesis: that intimacy will burn too brightly, only to be snuffed out by betrayal. But oh, to gaze upon the brief flicker of that flame.” ~ Andreas Stoehr

Principal cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Byron Barr, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bononova, John Philliber
Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler
From the novel by James M. Cain
Director of photography: John F. Seitz
Production design by Hans Dreier and Hal Pereira (art direction), Bertram Granger (set decoration)
Costume design by Edith Head
Editorial supervisor: Doane Harrison
Original music by Miklos Rozsa
Sound recordists: Stanley Cooley and Walter Oberst
Process photography by Farciot Edouart
Makeup by Wally Westmore, Robert Ewing (uncredited), Charles Gemora (uncredited)
Hair stylist: Hollis Barnes (uncredited)
Executive producer: Buddy G. De Sylva (uncredited)
Produced by Joseph Sistrom (uncredited)

Duration: 107 minutes
Languages: English
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Produced and released in USA by Paramount Pictures
Premiered in USA on 24 April 1944

Awards and honors:
- National Film Registry selection, 1992
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 20 December 1998
- Academy Awards (USA), 1944: Best Picture (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1944: Best Director, Billy Wilder (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1944: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Barbara Stanwyck (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1944: Best Writing, Screenplay (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1944: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1944: Best Cinematography, Black and White (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1944: Best Sound Recording (nominated)
- NYFCC Award, New York Film Critics Circle, 1944: Best Director, Billy Wilder (3rd place)
- NYFCC Award, New York Film Critics Circle, 1944: Best Actress, Barbara Stanwyck (3rd place)