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Double indemnity car insurance

Double Indemnity
Hsbc home contents insurance uk car Theatrical release poster
Directed by Billy Wilder
Produced by Joseph Sistrom
Screenplay by
  • Billy Wilder
  • Raymond Chandler
Based on Double Indemnity
by James M. Cain
  • Fred MacMurray
  • Barbara Stanwyck
  • Edward G. Robinson
  • Porter Hall
  • Jean Heather
  • Byron Barr
  • Richard Gaines
  • John Philliber
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography John Seitz
Edited by Doane Harrison
Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • April 24, 1944 (1944-04-24) (United States)
Running time 107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $980,000[1]
Box office $5 million

Double Indemnity is a 1944 film noir directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, and produced by Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Sistrom. The screenplay was based on James M. Cain's 1943 novella of the same name, which originally appeared as an eight-part serial in Liberty magazine.

The film stars Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman, Barbara Stanwyck as a provocative housewife who wishes her husband were dead, and Edward G. Robinson as a claims adjuster whose job is to find phony claims. The term "double indemnity" refers to a clause in certain life insurance policies that doubles the payout in rare cases when death is caused accidentally, such as while riding a railway.

Praised by many critics when first released, Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Academy Awards but did not win any. Widely regarded as a classic, it is often cited as a paradigmatic film noir and as having set the standard for the films that followed in that genre.

Deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress in 1992, Double Indemnity was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1998, it was ranked #38 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best American films of all time, and in 2007 it placed 29th on their 10th Anniversary list.


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Production
    • 3.1 Background
    • 3.2 Writing
    • 3.3 Casting
    • 3.4 Filming
    • 3.5 Music
    • 3.6 Locations
  • 4 Release
    • 4.1 Critical reception
    • 4.2 Film noir
    • 4.3 Academy Award nominations
    • 4.4 Other awards
    • 4.5 Adaptations
    • 4.6 Imitators, rivals, reflections
  • 5 See also
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


Health insurance la canada flintridge car Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), a successful insurance salesman, returns to his office building in downtown Los Angeles late one night. Visibly in pain and sporting a gunshot wound on his shoulder, he begins dictating a confession into a Dictaphone for his friend and colleague, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), a brilliant claims adjuster. The story, told primarily in flashback, ensues.

Neff first meets the alluring Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) during a routine house call to remind her husband (Tom Powers) that his automobile insurance policy is up for renewal. They flirt, until Phyllis asks how she could take out an accident policy on her husband's life without his knowledge. Neff deduces she is contemplating murder, and makes it clear he wants no part of it.

However, he cannot get her out of his mind, and when Phyllis shows up at his own home, he cannot resist her any longer. Neff knows all the tricks of his trade and devises a plan to make the murder of her husband appear to be an accidental fall from a train that will trigger the "double indemnity" clause and pay out twice the policy's face value.

After Dietrichson breaks his leg, Phyllis drives him to the train station for his trip to Palo Alto for a college reunion. Neff is hiding in the backseat and kills Dietrichson when Phyllis turns onto a deserted side street. Then, Neff boards the train posing as Dietrichson and using his crutches. He makes his way to the last car, the observation car, and steps outside to the open platform to supposedly smoke a cigarette. A complication ensues when he meets a passenger named Jackson (Porter Hall) there, but he manages to get the man to leave. Neff then throws the crutches on the railway tracks, jumps off at a prearranged meeting spot with Phyllis, and drags Dietrichson's body onto the tracks by his crutches.

Mr. Norton (Richard Gaines), the company's chief, believes the death was suicide, but Keyes scoffs at the idea, quoting statistics indicating the improbability of suicide by jumping off a slow-moving train, to Neff's hidden delight. Keyes does not suspect foul play at first, but his instincts, to which he refers as the "little man", pointing to his stomach, starts nagging. He wonders why Dietrichson did not file a claim for his broken leg, and deduces he did not know about the policy. Keyes tells Neff of his theory outside Neff's apartment, while Phyllis hides behind the door. Keyes soon concludes that Phyllis and some unknown accomplice murdered Dietrichson for the insurance money, but needs more proof.

Keyes, however, is not Neff's only worry. The victim's daughter, Lola (Jean Heather), comes to him, convinced that stepmother Phyllis is behind her father's death. Lola's mother also died under suspicious circumstances, when Phyllis was her nurse. Neff begins seeing Lola, at first to keep her from going to the police with her suspicions and then because he is plagued by guilt and a sense of responsibility for her.

Keyes brings Jackson to Los Angeles, suspecting that the man aboard the train had not been Dietrichson, but rather had been Phyllis' accomplice in Dietrichson's murder. After examining photographs of Dietrichson, Jackson is sure the man he met was not that old, but at least 10 years younger. Now certain that he can prove murder, Keyes is eager to reject the claim and force Phyllis to sue. Neff warns Phyllis not to pursue the insurance claim in court and admits he has been talking to Lola about her past. Phyllis, however, insists on filing suit to pursue the claim despite the risk to both her and to Neff. Lola eventually tells Neff she has discovered her boyfriend, the hotheaded Nino Zachetti (Byron Barr), has been seeing Phyllis behind her (and Neff's) back.

When Neff learns that Keyes suspects Nino of being Phyllis' accomplice, Neff sees a way out of his predicament. He arranges to meet Phyllis at her house. He informs her that he knows about her involvement with Nino, and guesses that she is planning to have Nino kill him. He tells her that he intends to kill her and put the blame on Nino. She is prepared, however, and shoots him in the shoulder. Seriously wounded but still standing, he slowly comes closer and dares her to shoot again. She does not, and he takes the gun from her. She says she never loved him "until a minute ago, when I couldn't fire that second shot." Neff doesn't believe a word she says, and as she hugs him tightly, Neff says, "Goodbye, baby," and shoots twice, killing her.

Outside, Neff waits for Nino to arrive (something Neff had orchestrated). Neff advises him not to enter the house and instead go to Lola, the woman who loves him. Nino is reluctantly convinced and leaves as told. Neff drives to his office and starts speaking into his Dictaphone, as seen at the film's opening. Keyes arrives unnoticed and hears enough to know the truth. Keyes sadly tells him, "Walter, you're all washed up." Neff tells Keyes he is going to Mexico rather than face the gas chamber, but sags to the floor from his injury and blood loss before he can reach the elevator. A weakened Neff tells Keyes the reason he couldn't figure the case out was because the guy he was looking for was "too close, right across the desk from you." When Keyes replies "closer than that, Walter." Neff replies that he loves Keyes too. As Neff had done, lighting Keyes' cigars for him throughout the film, Keyes lights Neff's cigarette as they await the police and an ambulance.


Best car for insurance ukPlay media 1950s trailer for early TV broadcasts of Double Indemnity
  • Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff
  • Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson
  • Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes
  • Porter Hall as Mr Jackson
  • Jean Heather as Lola Dietrichson
  • Tom Powers as Mr Dietrichson
  • Byron Barr as Nino Zachetti
  • Richard Gaines as Edward S. Norton, Jr.
  • Fortunio Bonanova as Sam Garlopis, truck driver
  • John Philliber as Joe Peters, lift operator


  • Raymond Chandler as man reading book (cameo) at 16 minutes and 12 seconds.
  • Bess Flowers as Norton's Secretary
  • Betty Farrington as Nettie the Dietrichson's maid
  • Teala Loring as Pacific All-Risk Insurance Telephone operator



James M. Cain based his novella on a 1927 murder perpetrated by a married Queens, New York woman and her lover whose trial he attended while working as a journalist in New York.[2] In that crime, Ruth Snyder persuaded her boyfriend, Judd Gray, to kill her husband Albert after having him take out a big insurance policy – with a double-indemnity clause.[a] The murderers were quickly identified, arrested and convicted. The front page photo of Snyder's execution in the electric chair at Sing Sing has been called the most famous newsphoto of the 1920s.[4]

Double Indemnity began making the rounds in Hollywood shortly after it was published in Liberty magazine in 1935. Cain had already made a name for himself the year before with The Postman Always Rings Twice, a story of murder and passion between a migrant worker and the unhappy wife of a café owner. Cain's agent sent copies of the novella to all the major studios and within days, MGM, Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century-Fox, and Columbia were all competing to buy the rights for $25,000. Then a letter went out from Joseph Breen at the Hays Office, and the studios withdrew their bids at once. In it Breen warned:

The general low tone and sordid flavor of this story makes it, in our judgment, thoroughly unacceptable for screen presentation before mixed audiences in the theater. I am sure you will agree that it is most important…to avoid what the code calls "the hardening of audiences," especially those who are young and impressionable, to the thought and fact of crime.[5]

Eight years later Double Indemnity was included in a collection of Cain's works entitled Three of a Kind. Paramount executive Joseph Sistrom thought the material would be perfect for Wilder and they bought the rights for $15,000.[6] Paramount resubmitted the script to the Hays Office, but the response was nearly identical to the one eight years earlier. Wilder, Paramount executive William Dozier, and Sistrom decided to move forward anyway. They submitted a film treatment crafted by Wilder and his writing partner Charles Brackett,[7] and this time the Hays Office approved the project with only a few objections: the portrayal of the disposal of the body, a proposed gas-chamber execution scene, and the skimpiness of the towel worn by the female lead in her first scene.[8]

Cain forever after maintained that Joseph Breen owed him $10,000 for vetoing the property back in 1935 when he would have received $25,000.[9]


Diavlarte la costa show car insurance Keyes is sure something is not right.

After Paramount purchased the rights to the novella for Wilder, the next step was a screenplay. The material was widely regarded around Hollywood as unfilmable due to its iniquitous characters and the restrictions imposed by the Motion Picture Production Code. Although he had worked on the treatment, Charles Brackett decided it was too sordid and bowed out of the project, leaving Wilder to find another collaborator. His first choice, James M. Cain himself, was already working for another studio and unavailable (although Cain claimed he was never asked).[10] Producer Joseph Sistrom, an avid reader and an admirer of The Big Sleep, then suggested Raymond Chandler.

Wilder would later recall with disappointment his first meeting with Chandler. Envisioning a former private detective who had worked his own experiences into gritty prose, he instead met a man he would later describe as looking like an accountant. Chandler was new to Hollywood, but saw it as a golden opportunity. Not realizing that he would be collaborating with Wilder, he demanded $1,000 and said he would need at least a week to complete the screenplay, to which Wilder and Sistrom simply looked at one another in amazement. To help guide him in writing a screenplay, Wilder gave Chandler a copy of his own screenplay for 1941's Hold Back the Dawn to study. After the first weekend, Chandler presented eighty pages that Wilder characterized as "useless camera instruction";[11] Wilder quickly put it aside and informed Chandler that they would be working together, slowly and meticulously. By all accounts, the pair did not get along during their four months together. At one point Chandler even quit, submitting a long list of grievances to Paramount as to why he could no longer work with Wilder. Wilder, however, stuck it out, admiring Chandler's gift with words and knowing that his dialogue would translate very well to the screen.[2]

Chandler and Wilder made considerable changes to Cain's story. For one thing, the ending was overhauled. And the character of Barton Keyes was transformed from Walter Neff's fairly clueless co-worker into his mentor and eventual nemesis.

Initially, Wilder and Chandler had intended to retain as much of Cain’s original dialogue as possible. It was Chandler who first realized that the dialogue from the novella would not translate well to the screen. Wilder disagreed and was annoyed that Chandler was not putting more of it into the script. To settle it, Wilder hired a couple of contract players from the studio to read passages of Cain’s original dialogue aloud. To Wilder's astonishment, Chandler was right and, in the end, the movie’s cynical and provocative dialogue was more Chandler and Wilder than it was Cain.[12] Chandler also did a lot of fieldwork while working on the script and took large volumes of notes. By visiting various locations that figured into the film, he was able to bring a sense of realism about Los Angeles that seeped into the script. For example, he hung around Jerry's Market on Melrose Avenue in preparation for the scene where Phyllis and Walter would discreetly meet to plan the murder.[13]

The tumultuous relationship between Wilder and Chandler only enhanced the product of their collaboration. Wilder, in fact, believed that discord, a tug-of-war, was a vital ingredient necessary for a fruitful collaboration: "If two people think alike," he once said, "it's like two men pulling at one end of a rope. If you are going to collaborate, you need an opponent to bounce things off of."[14] His tugging with Chandler did have a softer side, it seems: over 60 years after the film's initial release, it was discovered that Chandler had agreed to appear in a fleeting cameo at 16 minutes 12 seconds into the film, glancing up from a book as Neff walks past in the hallway. This is notable because, other than a snippet from a home movie, there is no other footage of Chandler known anywhere.[15]

When Chandler came to work with Wilder he was already a recovering alcoholic. As Wilder noted, "He was in Alcoholics Anonymous, and I think he had a tough time with me – I drove him back into drinking..."[16] By the time the picture was released, Chandler was thoroughly disillusioned with the writers' lot in Hollywood; he published an angry piece titled "Writers in Hollywood" for The Atlantic Monthly in November 1945 in which he complained: "The first picture I worked on was nominated for an Academy Award (if that means anything), but I was not even invited to the press review held right in the studio." He neglected, however, to mention that the studio had kept him on salary during the eight-week shooting schedule and that no changes to the script were allowed without his approval – a very rare accommodation for screenwriters, particularly newcomers, in those days.[17] Offended, Wilder responded by saying, "We didn't invite him? How could we? He was under the table drunk at Lucy's," a nearby watering hole for Paramount employees. This relationship with Chandler is what drew Wilder to his next project, the Best Picture-winning The Lost Weekend, about an alcoholic writer. Wilder made the film, in part, "to explain Chandler to himself."[2]

Cain himself was very pleased with the way his book turned out on the screen. After seeing the picture half a dozen times he was quoted as saying, "...It's the only picture I ever saw made from my books that had things in it I wish I had thought of. Wilder's ending was much better than my ending, and his device for letting the guy tell the story by taking out the office dictating machine – I would have done it if I had thought of it."[18]

Wilder's and Brackett's estrangement during Double Indemnity was not a permanent one. Years later Wilder would characterize their time apart as just another kind of adultery: "1944 was 'The Year of Infidelities,'" he said. "Charlie produced The Uninvited...I wrote Double Indemnity with Raymond Chandler... I don't think he ever forgave me. He always thought I cheated on him with Raymond Chandler." Brackett spun the breakup in a decidedly different light, saying, "Billy got so despondent at being without me that we did The Lost Weekend, a depressing film about a writer who has trouble writing."[19] Lost Weekend was a distinguished offspring for the reconciled couple – they left Oscar night with three Awards: Best Picture for producer Brackett, Best Director for Wilder, and a shared pair of statuettes for both for Best Screenplay. They worked together through Sunset Boulevard in 1950, then split for good.


Progressive car insurance maryville tn Wilder chose a bad wig for Stanwyck to underscore Phyllis's "sleazy phoniness".

Having the two protagonists mortally wound each other was one of the key factors in gaining Hays Office approval for the script: the Production Code demanded that criminals pay, on screen, for their transgressions. In addition, Double Indemnity broke new cinematic ground on several fronts, one of those being the first time a Hollywood film explicitly explored the means, motives, and opportunity of committing a murder.[20] It would take skillful performers to bring nuance to these treacherous characters, and casting the roles of Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson would be a challenge for Wilder.

Sistrom and Wilder's first choice for the role of Phyllis Dietrichson was Barbara Stanwyck. At the time, Stanwyck was not only the highest paid actress in Hollywood, but the highest paid woman in America.[2] (Her eventual co-star MacMurray matched Stanwyck's prominence at the pay window: in 1943, he was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, and the fourth highest-paid American.[21]) Given the nature of the role, Stanwyck was reluctant to take the part, fearing it would have an adverse effect on her career. According to Stanwyck,

I said, "I love the script and I love you, but I am a little afraid after all these years of playing heroines to go into an out-and-out killer." And Mr. Wilder – and rightly so – looked at me and he said, "Well, are you a mouse or an actress?" And I said, "Well, I hope I'm an actress." He said, "Then do the part". And I did and I'm very grateful to him.[22]

The character of Walter Neff was not only a heel, he was a weak and malleable heel – many Hollywood actors including Alan Ladd, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Gregory Peck, and Fredric March passed on it.[23] Wilder even recalls "scraping the bottom of the barrel" and approaching George Raft. Raft was illiterate, so Wilder had to tell him the plot. About halfway through, Raft interrupted him with, "Let's get to the lapel bit." "What lapel bit?" a bewildered Wilder replied. "The lapel," the actor said, annoyed by such stupidity. "You know, when the guy flashes his lapel, you see his badge, you know he's a detective." This was his vision of the film, and since it wasn't part of the story, Raft turned the part down.[24] Wilder finally realized that the part should be played by someone who could not only be a cynic, but a nice guy as well.[23]

Fred MacMurray was accustomed to playing "happy-go-lucky good guys" in light comedies, and when Wilder first approached him about the Neff role, MacMurray said, "You're making the mistake of your life!" Playing a serious role required acting, he said, "and I can't do it."[25] But Wilder pestered him about it every single day – at home, in the studio commissary, in his dressing room, on the sidewalk – until he simply wore the actor down. MacMurray felt safe about his acquiescence since Paramount, who had him under contract and had carefully crafted his good guy image, would never let him play a "wrong" role.[26] His trust, however, was misplaced: his contract was up for renewal at the time, and ever since his friend and co-star, Carole Lombard, had shrewdly and successfully taught him how to play hardball with the studio bosses, he wasn't the pliable pushover of old. Paramount executives decided to let him play the unsavory role to teach him a lesson. A lesson was indeed taught, but not the one Paramount had in mind.[27] MacMurray made a great heel and his performance demonstrated new breadths of his acting talent. "I never dreamed it would be the best picture I ever made," he said.[28]

Edward G. Robinson was also reluctant to sign on for the role of Barton Keyes, but not for the same reasons as MacMurray and Stanwyck. Having been a star since Little Caesar in 1930, this role represented a step downward to the third lead. Robinson would later admit, "At my age, it was time to begin thinking of character roles, to slide into middle and old age with the same grace as that marvelous actor Lewis Stone". It also helped, as he freely admitted, that he would draw the same salary as the two leads, for fewer shooting days.[22] The notable Broadway actor Tom Powers was invited to Hollywood for the role of Mr. Dietrichson. It was Powers' first film role since 1917 and his start to a "second film career" with many supporting roles until his death in 1955.[29][user-generated source?]


Eagleman car insurance commercial Neff confesses into a Dictaphone.

The original ending to the Cain novella called for the characters to commit double suicide. Suicide, however, was strictly forbidden at the time by the Hays Production Code as a way to resolve a plot, so Wilder wrote and filmed a different ending in which Neff goes to the gas chamber while Keyes watches. This scene was shot before the scenes that eventually became the film's familiar ending, and once that final intimate exchange between Neff and Keyes revealed its power to Wilder, he began to wonder if the gas chamber ending was needed at all. "You couldn't have a more meaningful scene between two men", Wilder said.[30] As he would later recount, "The story was between the two guys. I knew it, even though I had already filmed the gas chamber scene... So we just took out the scene in the gas chamber,"[31] despite its $150,000 cost to the studio.[30] Removal of the scene, over Chandler's objection,[28] also removed the Hays Office's single biggest remaining objection to the picture, since they regarded it as "unduly gruesome" and predicted that it would never be approved by local and regional censor boards.[32] The footage and sound elements are lost, but production stills of the scene still exist.

The look of the film was achieved through the work of cinematographer John F. Seitz. At the time, Seitz was the premiere director of photography on the Paramount lot; his work extended all the way back to the silent era. Wilder had worked with Seitz on his previous film, Five Graves to Cairo, in which Seitz was nominated for an Academy Award and Wilder praised Seitz's willingness to experiment and fail.[33] Here Wilder taps into his 1920s Berlin roots, and he and Seitz give the film a look subtly reminiscent of German expressionism, with dramatic deployment of light and shadows.[34] "He was ready for anything," Wilder said. "Sometimes the rushes were so dark that you couldn't see anything. He went to the limits of what could be done."[35] They would contrast the bright sunny Southern California exteriors, shot on location, with dark, gloomy, rotten interiors shot on soundstages to give the audience a sense of what lurks just beneath the facade – and just who is capable of murder.[2] The contrast was heightened, in Wilder's words, by "dirtying up" the sets. Once the set was ready for filming, Wilder would go around and overturn a few ashtrays to give the house an appropriately grubby look. Wilder and Seitz also blew aluminum particles into the air so that, as they floated down, they looked just like dust.[36]

Ford ka first car insurance Use of "venetian blind" lighting would become a stock-in-trade film noir look

Another technique Seitz used was "venetian blind" lighting which almost gives the illusion of prison bars trapping the characters. Barbara Stanwyck later reflected, "...and for an actress, let me tell you the way those sets were lit, the house, Walter’s apartment, those dark shadows, those slices of harsh light at strange angles – all that helped my performance. The way Billy staged it and John Seitz lit it, it was all one sensational mood."[37]

For Neff's office at Pacific All Risk, Wilder and set designer Hal Pereira conspired to create a little in-house joke, typical of Billy Wilder. In the opening scenes, as Walter Neff stumbles off the elevator on his way to his office to record his confession, the vast two-tiered office is empty and dark. With the camera following him, Neff lurches towards the balcony railing overlooking rows and rows of uniform corporate desks. Neff turns left, but the camera continues forward until it reaches the brink and stares down for an anxious moment into a colorless American business purgatory. Here, Pereira is said to have copied an existing office: the corporate headquarters of Paramount Pictures in New York City.[38][b]

Wilder also decked Stanwyck out in the blonde wig "to complement her anklet...and to make her look as sleazy as possible."[22] This wig has been cited by some as being the picture's biggest flaw claiming that it looks too “fake”.[2] According to Wilder, this was exactly what he was going for when he chose the wig wanting to project, "the phoniness of the girl – Bad taste, phony wig," with cheap perfume to match.[40] Unconvinced, Paramount production head Buddy DeSylva was overheard to say, "We hired Barbara Stanwyck, and here we get George Washington."[22]

The production was not without its lucky accidents: The company had just finished shooting the final segment of the sequence where Phyllis and Walter make their getaway after dumping their victim's body on the tracks. The crew was breaking for lunch before striking the set. In the script, the pair get in their car and simply drive away. But as Wilder got into his own car to leave, it wouldn't start. Inspired, he ran back and ordered the crew back. Wilder reshot the scene, only this time as Phyllis starts the car, the motor stalls and won't turn over. She tries several more times, but the car won't start and the two look at each other in growing panic. Walter desperately reaches over, turns the key and guns the motor, finally starting the car. Only then do they speed away from the crime scene. The result was one of the most suspenseful scenes in the film, but was not in the original script.[41] MacMurray was surprised when he first saw it onscreen: "...When I... turned the key I remember I was doing it fast and Billy kept saying, 'Make it longer, make it longer,' and finally I yelled, 'For Chrissake Billy, it's not going to hold that long,' and he said, 'Make it longer,' and he was right."[42]

Wilder managed to bring the whole production in under budget at $927,262 despite $370,000 in salaries for just four people ($100,000 each for MacMurray, Stanwyck, and Robinson, and $70,000 – $44,000 for writing and $26,000 for directing – for himself).[43]


Car insurance companies jacksonville fl The Conspiracy The nervous running figure for tremolo strings sets off each of Neff's flashbacks to represent the conspirator's activities.
Problems playing this file? See media help.

The score to Double Indemnity was composed by Miklós Rózsa, whose work on Wilder's previous film, Five Graves to Cairo, had been his first real Hollywood engagement for a major studio. Wilder had praised that work and promised to use Rózsa on his next film. Wilder had the idea of using a restless string fugue (like the opening to Franz Schubert's Unfinished Symphony) to reflect the conspiratorial activities of Walter and Phyllis against her husband which Rózsa felt was a good one (and the Symphony is actually used with a very melodramatic effect in the scene with Lola and Walter in the hill above Hollywood Bowl, 1:23-1:26). As work progressed, Wilder's enthusiasm about Rózsa's score only grew, but the studio's Musical Director, Louis Lipstone, was of a different mind; he and Wilder had previously clashed over some post-production cuts he had made to the Five Graves score which created problems with the music's continuity and logic. Now the two were coming to loggerheads again.[44][45]

When it came time to record the score for Double Indemnity, Lipstone made no secret that he despised what Rózsa had done, to which Wilder finally turned to him and snapped, "You may be surprised to hear that I love it. Okay?" Lipstone then disappeared and was not seen at the sessions again. He later summoned Rózsa to his office and reprimanded him for writing "Carnegie Hall music" which had no place in a film. Rózsa took this as a compliment, but Lipstone assured him it was not – and suggested he listen to the music from Madame Curie to learn how to write a proper film score. When Rózsa pointed out that Double Indemnity was a love story, Lipstone suggested his music was more appropriate to The Battle of Russia.[44][46] Lipstone was convinced that as soon as the studio's Artistic Director, Buddy DeSylva, heard the music he would throw it out. At a screening soon after, DeSylva called him over: expecting heads to roll, Lipstone eagerly huddled with his chief – only to have DeSylva praise the music, saying it was exactly the dissonant, hard-hitting score the film needed. The boss's only criticism: there was not enough of it. By this time Lipstone had an arm around DeSylva, asking unctuously, "I always find you the right guy for the job, Buddy, don't I?"[47]

The score would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award, and the success brought Rózsa offers to do as many films as he had time for.[47]


Tesco car warranty insurance Southern Pacific Depot, Glendale, a "star" in 1944, now carefully preserved

Exteriors of the Dietrichson house in the film were shot at a 3,200-square-foot (300 m2), Spanish Colonial Revival house built in 1927. The house can still be seen today and is located at 6301 Quebec Drive[40] in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles. The production team copied the interior of the house, including the spiral staircase, almost exactly on a soundstage at Paramount.[48]

The exterior of the train station in the film was the Mission Revival Style Southern Pacific Railroad Depot in Glendale, California built in 1923. The station can now be seen as part of the Glendale Transportation Center and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1997.[49]

Other locations around Los Angeles used in the film were an apartment building at 1825 N. Kingsley Drive in Hollywood where Walter Neff lived and the building on the southwest corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Western. That building still stands, but the Newman Drug Store originally on the ground floor is no longer there.[50]


The film was re-released on July 19 & 20, 2015, as part of the "TCM Presents" series by Turner Classic Movies.[51]

Critical reception

Double Indemnity opened on September 6, 1944, and was an immediate hit with audiences – despite a campaign by singer Kate Smith imploring the public to stay away on moral grounds.[52] As James M. Cain recalled, "there was a little trouble caused by this fat girl, Kate Smith, who carried on a propaganda asking people to stay away from the picture. Her advertisement probably put a million dollars on its gross."[53]

Reviews from the critics were largely positive, though the content of the story made some uncomfortable. While some reviewers found the story implausible and disturbing, others praised it as an original thriller. In his mixed review of the film in The New York Times, film critic Bosley Crowther called the picture "Steadily diverting, despite its monotonous pace and length." He complained that the two lead characters "lack the attractiveness to render their fate of emotional consequence", but also felt the movie possessed a "realism reminiscent of the bite of past French films".[54]

Howard Barnes at the New York Herald Tribune was much more enthusiastic, calling Double Indemnity "one of the most vital and arresting films of the year", and praising Wilder's "magnificent direction and a whale of a script". The trade paper Variety, meanwhile, said the film "sets a new standard for screen treatment in its category".[54]

Influential radio host and Hearst paper columnist Louella Parsons would go even further, saying, "Double Indemnity is the finest picture of its kind ever made, and I make that flat statement without any fear of getting indigestion later from eating my words."[55]

Philip K. Scheur, the Los Angeles Times movie critic, ranked it with The Human Comedy, The Maltese Falcon, and Citizen Kane as Hollywood trailblazers, while Alfred Hitchcock wrote to Wilder saying that "Since Double Indemnity, the two most important words in motion pictures are 'Billy' and 'Wilder'".[55]

The film's critical reputation has only grown over the years. In 1977, notably terse critic-historian Leslie Halliwell gave it an unusual 4-star (top) rating, and wrote: "Brilliantly filmed and incisively written, perfectly capturing the decayed Los Angeles atmosphere of a Chandler novel, but using a simpler story and more substantial characters."[56] In his 1998 review, film critic Roger Ebert praised director Wilder and cinematographer Seitz. He wrote, "The photography by John F. Seitz helped develop the noir style of sharp-edged shadows and shots, strange angles and lonely Edward Hopper settings."[57]

Film noir

Double Indemnity is an important (and some say the first) example of a genre of films called film noir. According to Robert Sklar, a former chairperson of the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University, classic film noir is marked by major thematic elements: a plot about how a crime told from the point of view of the criminal, psychosexual themes are explored, and a visually "dark and claustrophobic framing, with key lighting from sources within the mise-en-scène casting strong shadows that both conceal and project characters’ feelings".[58] Double Indemnity includes all of these traits.

Double Indemnity has been compared with Wilder's other acclaimed film noir, Sunset Boulevard. The narrative structure in both films begin and end in the present, but the bulk of the plot is told in flashback narrated by their protagonists. Sklar explains, "[T]he unusual juxtaposition of temporalities gives the spectator a premonition of what will occur/has occurred in the flashback story. ... Besides Double Indemnity and Detour, voice-over is a key aspect of Mildred Pierce, Gilda, The Lady from Shanghai, and Out of the Past ... as well as many others."[59] Wendy Lesser notes that the narrator of Sunset Boulevard is dead before he begins narrating, but in Double Indemnity, "the voice-over has a different meaning. It is not the voice of a dead man ... it is ... the voice of an already doomed man."[60]

Academy Award nominations

At the 17th Academy Awards on March 15, 1945, Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Oscars, but did not win any.[61]

Award Category Nominee Result
17th Academy Awards Best Motion Picture Paramount Pictures Lost to Going My Way – Leo McCarey (Producer)
Best Director Billy Wilder Lost to Leo McCarey for Going My Way
Best Actress Barbara Stanwyck Lost to Ingrid Bergman for Gaslight
Best Writing, Screenplay Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler Lost to Frank Butler and Frank Cavett for Going My Way
Best Cinematography – Black and White John F. Seitz Lost to Joseph LaShelle for Laura
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Miklós Rózsa Lost to Max Steiner for Since You Went Away
Best Sound, Recording Loren Ryder Lost to Edmund H. Hansen for Wilson

Wilder went to the awards ceremony expecting to win even though the studio had been backing their other big hit of the year, Leo McCarey's Going My Way, and studio employees were expected to vote for the studio favorite. As the awards show wore on and Double Indemnity lost in category after category, it became evident that there would be a Going My Way sweep. McCarey beamed as his picture won award after award and when he was named Best Director, Wilder could no longer take it. When McCarey got up to make his way to the stage to accept the award for best picture, Wilder, sitting on the aisle, stuck out his foot and tripped him. "Mr. McCarey...stumbled perceptibly," he gleefully recalled.[62] After the ceremony while he and his wife Judith were waiting for his limousine to arrive, he yelled out so loudly that everybody could hear him, "What the hell does the Academy Award mean, for God's sake? After all – Luise Rainer won it two times. Luise Rainer!"[63]

Other awards

American Film Institute included the film on these lists:

  • 1998: AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies – #38
  • 2001: AFI's 100 Years…100 Thrills – #24
  • 2002: AFI's 100 Years…100 Passions – #84
  • 2003: AFI's 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains:
    • Phyllis Dietrichson, villain #8
  • 2007: AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #29

The Writers Guild of America ranked the film's screenplay as the 26th greatest ever written.[64]


Double Indemnity was adapted as a radio play on two broadcasts of The Screen Guild Theater, first on March 5, 1945 with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, then five years later on February 16, 1950 with Stanwyck and Robert Taylor.[65] It was also adapted to the October 15, 1948 broadcast of the Ford Theatre with Burt Lancaster and Joan Bennett[66] and the October 30, 1950 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with MacMurray and Stanwyck.[67]

Other films inspired by the Snyder-Gray murder include The Postman Always Rings Twice (also based on a Cain novel) and Body Heat (1981). Both Postman and Double Indemnity were remade: Double Indemnity was a telemovie in 1973 starring Richard Crenna (who also starred in Body Heat), Lee J. Cobb, and Samantha Eggar;[68][user-generated source?][c] and is included on a bonus disc in the American DVD release of the original film. The Postman Rings remake was a 1981 theatrical release directed by Bob Rafelson and starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. An Indian film, Jism (2003), was also inspired by the film.

Double Indemnity is one of the films parodied in the 1993 film Fatal Instinct; the hero's wife conspires to have him shot on a moving train and fall into a lake so that she can collect on his insurance, which has a "triple indemnity" rider. Carol Burnett parodied the film as "Double Calamity" on her TV show.

Imitators, rivals, reflections

After the success of Double Indemnity, imitators of the film's plot and style were rampant. In 1945, Producers Releasing Corporation, one of the B movie studios of Hollywood’s Poverty Row, was set to release a blatant rip-off titled Single Indemnity starring Ann Savage and Hugh Beaumont. Paramount quickly slapped an injunction on the cut-rate potboiler that remains in force to this day. PRC eventually edited its film down to 67 minutes, re-titled it Apology for Murder, and sold it to television in the early 1950s as part of a syndicated half-hour mystery show.[69]

So many imitations flooded the market, in fact, that James M. Cain believed he deserved credit and remuneration. Instead he led a movement within the Screen Writers Guild to create the American Author's Authority, a union that would own its members' works, negotiate better subsidiary deals, and protect against copyright infringement on behalf of its members. This was, however, the depth of the Red Scare in Hollywood and Guild members rejected the socialist notion and ran from the attempt.[70]

It was not uncommon at the time for studios to take out ads in trade journals promoting the virtues of their own films. David O. Selznick, no stranger to self-aggrandizement, frequently sought to put a high-culture patina on his pictures with "trade-book" ads. At just the time Double Indemnity was released, Selznick's latest tearjerker, Since You Went Away, was enjoying some box office success. In his ads, Selznick quoted various dignitaries claiming it was the finest picture they had ever seen, how it served such a noble purpose, how it elevated humanity to new levels – no high-toned platitude was too lofty to invoke. Indeed, the ad averred, the words Since You Went Away had become "the four most important words uttered in motion picture history since Gone with the Wind."[71] The petulant Wilder despised such ostentation, so he placed an ad of his own: Double Indemnity, it claimed, were the two most important words uttered in motion picture history since Broken Blossoms, thus comparing D. W. Griffith's artistic 1919 classic with his own sordid story of iniquitous murder. Selznick was not amused and threatened to stop advertising in any of the trades if they continued to run Wilder's ads.[52]

Wilder himself considered Double Indemnity his best film in terms of having the fewest scripting and shooting mistakes[72] and always maintained that the two things he was proudest of in his career were the compliments he received from Cain about Double Indemnity and from Agatha Christie for his handling of her Witness for the Prosecution.[55]

Wilder was not only proud of his film, he was plainly fond of it as well: "I never heard that expression, film noir, when I made Double Indemnity ... I just made pictures I would have liked to see. When I was lucky, it coincided with the taste of the audience. With Double Indemnity, I was lucky."[73]

See also

  • List of American films of 1944


  1. ^ While the story certainly used the Snyder case as a framework, it lacked an important ingredient of the Double Indemnity structure: the "inside-guy accomplice" to the murder – the Walter Neff character. Cain later recalled this key innovation stemmed from a conversation he had years earlier with reporter Arthur Krock about Krock's days at the Louisville Courier-Journal. An ad for ladies underwear was typeset to read: IF THESE SIZES ARE TOO BIG, TAKE A TUCK IN THEM. But when the paper hit the street, the T in tuck had been changed to an F. A furious Krock reset the ad for the next edition and demanded an explanation on how it happened. After two days of bullying the printer, the man finally confessed, "…you do nothing your whole life but watch for something like that happening, so as to head it off, and then, Mr. Krock, you catch yourself watching for chances to do it." Cain also recalled another conversation he had with some insurance men in Los Angeles while verifying facts for Postman. Said one: "[People] think this stuff all comes from the police. That’s wrong. All the big crime mysteries in this country are locked up in insurance company files, and the writer that gets wise to that... is going to make himself rich." And thus was born Neff, who jumped the tracks after fifteen years playing it straight in the insurance business. Armed now with a sense of his hero-gone-wrong, Cain sat down to begin writing the story in 1934.[3]
  2. ^ Sixteen years later, Wilder would score notability again with the design of an insurance company office: in 1960's The Apartment, he and art director Alexandre Trauner constructed a huge office made even more intimidating by bending "parallel" lines inward and using progressively smaller and smaller desks – and smaller and smaller extras to populate them – farther back from the camera, to make the cavernous, harshly-lit space seem even more vast.[39]
  3. ^ Passenger travel by train was so passé by 1973 that the latter-day scripters had to add an exchange where Phyllis asks Neff about the role of the train in his plan, and Neff answers that there is still a passenger train that runs up the West Coast.


  1. ^ Sikov, Ed (1998). On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 978-0-7868-6194-1. p. 211
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Shadows of Suspense". Double Indemnity Universal Legacy Series DVD. Universal Studios. 2006. 
  3. ^ Hoopes (1982), Cain.
  4. ^ Gallo, Bill (2005). "When 'Dem Bums' Were Kings," New York Daily News, October 4, 2005.
  5. ^ Lally, Kevin (1996). Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder. New York: Henry Holt and Company. pp. 125–126. ISBN 978-0-8050-3119-5. 
  6. ^ Lally, p. 126
  7. ^ Phillips, Gene D. (2010). Some Like it Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-8131-2570-1. 
  8. ^ Lally, p. 127
  9. ^ Hoopes, Roy (1982). Cain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. pp. 347–348. ISBN 978-0-03-049331-7. 
  10. ^ McGilligan, Patrick (1986). Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood's Golden Age. Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-05689-3. p.127
  11. ^ Lally, p. 128
  12. ^ Phillips, Gene D. (2000). Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-8131-2174-1. 
  13. ^ Phillips, Creatures, p. 170
  14. ^ Phillips, Some Like, p 17.
  15. ^ Wooton, Adrian (June 5, 2009). "Chandler's double identity". The Guardian. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  16. ^ Lally, p. 129
  17. ^ Phillips, Creatures, p. 181
  18. ^ McGilligan, p. 125
  19. ^ Sikov, pp. 197–213
  20. ^ Muller, Eddie (1998). Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-18076-8. p. 56
  21. ^ Flint, Peter B. "Fred MacMurray Is Dead at 83; Versatile Film and Television Star." The New York Times, November 6, 1991. MacMurray made $420,000 in 1943.
  22. ^ a b c d Lally, p. 135
  23. ^ a b Lally, p. 134
  24. ^ Zolotow, Maurice (1977). Billy Wilder In Hollywood. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 978-0-399-11789-3. p. 117.
  25. ^ Phillips, Some Like, p. 61
  26. ^ Sikov, p. 202
  27. ^ Sikov, p. 203
  28. ^ a b Zolotow, p. 118
  29. ^ Biography: Tom Powers, IMDb[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ a b Lally, p. 137
  31. ^ Phillips, Creatures, p. 180
  32. ^ Lally, p. 138
  33. ^ Lally, p. 124
  34. ^ Lally, p. 136
  35. ^ Sikov, p. 206
  36. ^ Phillips, Some Like, p. 63
  37. ^ Muller, p. 58
  38. ^ Sikov, p. 207
  39. ^ Ebert, Roger. The Chicago Sun Times, film review.
  40. ^ a b Phillips, Some Like, p. 62
  41. ^ Phillips, Creatures, pp. 175-176
  42. ^ Zolotow, p. 116
  43. ^ Sikov, p. 211
  44. ^ a b Sikov, pp. 210–211
  45. ^ Rózsa, Miklós (1982). Double Life: The Autobiography of Miklós Rózsa. New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN 978-0-88254-688-9. p. 119
  46. ^ Rózsa, pp. 121
  47. ^ a b Rózsa, pp. 122
  48. ^ Prinzing, Debra. "Mae Brunken's Beachwood Canyon Home in the Hollywood Hills." Los Angeles Times. September 4, 2009.
  49. ^ Sandell, Scott (November 7, 2008). "Sex, death and architecture: an L.A. noir tour". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  50. ^ Cress, Robby (May 17, 2009). "Double Identity: Film Locations". The Guardian. Retrieved July 24, 2010. 
  51. ^ Kelley, Seth (June 9, 2015). "'Psycho,' 'Grease' Returning to Cinemas in 'TCM Presents' Series". Variety. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  52. ^ a b Sikov, p. 213
  53. ^ McGilligan, p. 128
  54. ^ a b Lally, p. 139
  55. ^ a b c Hoopes, p. 347
  56. ^ Walker, John (ed.) Halliwell's Film Guide, New York: HarperPerennial, 1994, p.344 ISBN 978-0-06-273241-5
  57. ^ Roger Ebert "Double Indemnity (1944)", Chicago Sun-Times, December 20, 1998. Last accessed: December 29, 2007
  58. ^ Sklar, Robert. Film: An International History of the Medium. London: Thames and Hudson, c. 1990. p. 305
  59. ^ Sklar, 309
  60. ^ Lesser, Wendy. "His Other Half: Men Looking at Women Through Art". Google Books. 24 April 2014.
  61. ^ "The 17th Academy Awards (1945) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  62. ^ Lally, p. 140
  63. ^ Zolotow, p. 123
  64. ^ "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America. Retrieved March 8, 2017. 
  65. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  66. ^ http://www.audio-classics.com/lthefordtheater.html
  67. ^ http://www.audio-classics.com/lluxradio.html
  68. ^ Double Indemnity (1973) at the Internet Movie Database.
  69. ^ Dixon, Wheeler. "Senses of Cinema". Retrieved July 26, 2010. 
  70. ^ Muller, p. 59
  71. ^ Sikov, p. 212
  72. ^ "One Head Is Better Than Two," in Films and Filming (London), February 1957.
  73. ^ Chandler, Charlotte, (2002). Nobody's Perfect: Billy Wilder, A Personal Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-1709-5. p. 114

External links

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  • Double Indemnity at the American Film Institute Catalog
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  • Double Indemnity literature
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Streaming audio
  • Double Indemnity on Screen Guild Theater: March 5, 1945
  • Double Indemnity on Lux Radio Theater: October 30, 1950
  • v
  • t
  • e
Films directed by Billy Wilder
  • Mauvaise Graine (1934)
  • The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • Five Graves to Cairo (1943)
  • Double Indemnity (1944)
  • The Lost Weekend (1945)
  • Death Mills (1945, documentary)
  • The Emperor Waltz (1948)
  • A Foreign Affair (1948)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  • Ace in the Hole (1951)
  • Stalag 17 (1953)
  • Sabrina (1954)
  • The Seven Year Itch (1955)
  • The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)
  • Love in the Afternoon (1957)
  • Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • The Apartment (1960)
  • One, Two, Three (1961)
  • Irma la Douce (1963)
  • Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
  • The Fortune Cookie (1966)
  • The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
  • Avanti! (1972)
  • The Front Page (1974)
  • Fedora (1978)
  • Buddy Buddy (1981)
  • v
  • t
  • e
Works by Raymond Chandler
  • The Big Sleep
  • Farewell, My Lovely
  • The High Window
  • The Lady in the Lake
  • The Little Sister
  • The Long Goodbye
  • Playback
  • Poodle Springs
  • Philip Marlowe
Short story
  • Five Murderers
  • Five Sinister Characters
  • Fingerman and Other Stories
  • The Simple Art of Murder
  • Killer in the Rain
  • The Midnight Raymond Chandler
  • Trouble is My Business
  • Pickup on Noon Street
  • Spanish Blood
  • Raymond Chandler Speaking
  • Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler
  • Double Indemnity
  • And Now Tomorrow
  • The Unseen
  • The Blue Dahlia
  • Strangers on a Train
  • Playback
  • Time to Kill (1942)
  • The Falcon Takes Over (1942)
  • Murder, My Sweet (1944)
  • The Big Sleep (1946)
  • Lady in the Lake (1947)
  • The Brasher Doubloon (1947)
  • Marlowe (1969)
  • The Long Goodbye (1973)
  • Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
  • The Big Sleep (1978)
  • Poodle Springs (1998)
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225 out of 267 people found the following review useful:
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One of the best films noir ever, Double Indemnity communicates with amazing effectiveness the depths of depravity, greed, lust, and betrayal of the seemingly innocent and beautiful.

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Author: Michael DeZubiria (wppispam2013@gmail.com) from Luoyang, China
8 November 2000

This is one of the best films of all time, not necessarily because of its story but because of the acting, direction, cinematography, lighting, and just the way that the story itself was told. At the time the film was released, the idea of revealing who the killer was in the opening scene was virtually unheard of, but it ended up being very effective because it allowed the audience to concentrate more on other elements of the film, which was the goal of Billy Wilder, the director. Instead of trying to figure out who the perpetrator was, there is more emphasis on how the crime was pulled off, what mistakes were made during the murder, who betrayed who, how close Barton Keyes (the insurance investigator) was getting to solving the case, and, probably most importantly, what kind of person Walter Neff is and whether or not sympathy should be felt toward him.

Barbara Stanwyck, in one of the most remembered performances of her extensive career, represents (with nearly flawless ease) the cold and ruthless manipulator who has no difficulty in ruining other people's lives in various ways (including death, if necessary) in order to get what she wants. Known in the film community as the `femme fatale,' this is someone who uses her sexual prowess, seductiveness, and emotional detachment to drag an unsuspecting person (generally an interested man) into a scheme from which she is expected to benefit heavily and he is most likely headed for destruction. In these types of films, the man often either finds his life in ruins or ends up dead, as is often (but not always) also the case with the fate of the femme fatale.

Barbara Stanwyck (as Phyllis Dietrichson, the murderous femme fatale in Double Indemnity) and Fred MacMurray (as Walter Neff, her ‘victim'), have amazing chemistry on screen. Their attraction is incredibly well portrayed, and the development of their relationship with each other is so convincing that what happens between them almost seems normal. Besides that, their mutually calculated interaction, although it seems at first like it has been rehearsed endlessly and ultimately brought unconvincingly to the screen, is exactly as it was meant to be, because it represents each character's intentions, even very subtly foreshadowing their future betrayals against each other. Phyllis has gone through every word she ever says to Walter in her head. She has practiced what she wants to say when she brings up the idea of life insurance to Walter in the beginning and she knows what she wants to say whenever they interact with each other because she has been planning for quite some time the prospect of murdering her husband in order to collect his fortune. Walter, conversely, methodically makes amorous advances as though this is something that he does regularly, and then ultimately he also plans out his conversations with Phyllis because he begins to suspect her and is sure to tell her only what he wants her to hear. This seemingly stiff dialogue brilliantly represents Phyllis and Walter's precise (and sinister) intentions, and it's quick pace creates a feeling of urgency and restlessness.

Probably the most fascinating and entertaining actor in the film, Edward G. Robinson, plays Barton Keyes, Walter's friend and employer at the insurance company where he works. Keyes is a very suspicious man who closely investigates the insurance claims which come into the company, having a striking history of accurately isolating fraudulent claims and throwing them out. His handling of Phyllis's (and Walter's, technically) claim and the way that he gets closer and closer to the truth create a great atmosphere of tension and drama.

Double Indemnity is nearly flawless. From the shocking and unexpected beginning to the already known but still surprising end, the audience is held rapt by the excellent performances, the brilliant and imaginative direction, and the flawlessly created atmosphere. This is excellent, excellent filmmaking, and is a classic film that should not be missed.

Was the above review useful to you? 123 out of 152 people found the following review useful:
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Justifiably At The Top Of Most Film Noir Lists

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Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
23 December 2005

This is one of the best-liked classic films of all time and I am among that large group of fans as well.

Few movies have ever had dialog this entertaining.....at least the conversations between Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. I think it's a big appeal to this movie, except to younger folks who look at it as "cheesy."

I read the book, Double Indemnity written by James Cain, and was surprised that the film's snappy dialog was not in it. This is one of the rare times when the movie was far better than the book. That's not a shock after you find out that literary giant Raymond Chandler and Hall Of Fame director Billy Wilder combined to write the screenplay,

For a murder/suspense story, there is very little action, almost none, yet there are no boring lulls. The three main actors - Stanwyck, MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, are what make this so good.

MacMurray's narration is fun to hear as he tells the story in flashback, from the beginning by dictating into an old Dictaphone to his co-worker Robinson. The latter is almost mesmerizing in his performance, the way he delivers his lines. He can even make a speech about something as boring as insurance and still keep you riveted to the screen.

Stanwyck was no sex symbol (at least to me) but she looked great here in the most seductive of 1940s clothing and, like Robinson, has a distinctive voice and accent that keeps your attention.

This film was the inspiration for the 1980 movie, "Body Heat," starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner. That, too, was a very, very good movie....but not many films are in the class of this one.

Was the above review useful to you? 105 out of 137 people found the following review useful:
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It fits together like a watch

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Author: Gary170459 from Derby, UK
2 May 2004

I've now seen this movie 14 times in 25 years, at all times of the year, in all moods, sober or not etc - but always at night. I recorded my copy off TV in 1987 so I can only imagine what a remaster would do for it. With an atmosphere thick enough to cut with a knife it never fails to engross and enchant me, and although it's been dated for 40 years or more still seems relevant and watchable today. TV, answer phones, recordable CD/DVD, memory sticks and the internet have all come between us and yet I can still watch Fred MacMurray speaking into a Dictaphone without a qualm. Who wears a hat in California nowadays? Who buys beer whilst driving! Lift attendants have gone but I can still believe in Charlie working and laughing away in the garage past 11 at night.

Woman and man agree to murder woman's husband but on the way to the cemetery they face grilling by insurance company. I think everything has been said before on the IMDb - by those who think it's one of the best films ever made! To those who simply think the main problem is that it's dated I wish you could see the TV commercials that dug into DI back in '87 - what a hoot - and compare. I've just noticed the print TCM UK is showing in 2005 is lip-synced out, very wobbly Rosza music track, fading and ageing fast - worse than my 1987 video tape (maybe logically). They're supposed to be encouraging people to enjoy the classics but they won't do that with such inferior screening copies. Dear TCM UK, this is an impressive iconic film - it deserves a billion dollar remaster authorised by the Library of Congress, not repeatedly trotting out unimpressive cheap worn dupes to fill those 2 hour slots.

Everything about DI from the acting, production, direction, and music is superbly dignified and is as "close to perfection" as human beings are probably allowed to get with this form of Art - especially with the more limited technology at their disposal in '44. When most films from now are long forgotten and dated DI will still be getting re-runs on TV and art-house cinemas - God and remasters willing - that is the fact of it.

Fortunia Bonanova certainly was fortunate to have appeared in bit parts in 2 of the best films ever made - Citizen Kane the other.

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Ultimate film-noir

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Author: Ilya Mauter
12 June 2003

Double Indemnity is based on a novel by James Cain adapted to the screen by great novelist Raymond Chandler, who made here his most important contribution to the cinema history in his career, though somehow matched by following screenwriting work for 1946 Howard Hawks' classic The Big Sleep, and Billy Wilder, who previously worked as a screen writer for Ernest Lubitsch and had been already nominated three times for Academy Awards in the process before making Double Indemnity, which nevertheless played the key role in establishing him as one of the best writer-directors in Hollywood, and giving him his fourth Oscar nomination as a writer and his first one as a director.

Double Indemnity was the third feature Wilder directed after 1942 The Major and the Minor and 1943 Five Graves to Cairo, but it was definitely the first film, his primary American tragedy where the author for the first time revealed his black and somehow hopelessly pessimistic view of the American society and of the human society in general, blackishly desecrated in the film simply by populating it with exceptionally sordid characters, who independently of being a victim or victimized, of being the protagonists or just simple supporters are never really able to transcend the utterly low and devilish motivations in theirs as a consequence sordidly painful lives and reach such a state where the viewer might get relieved by considering one of them as a positive element. Instead the characters' lives shown in a continuous noir flashback of Fred MacMurray's not-a-confession are driven from the start to the very end by an utter greed in a form of double and not only indemnities with consequential and inherent to it risks and fears in a rather unsure world of insurance.

An insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), a man with `no visible scars', starts to lose his already shaky dominance over his mind's yearnings when glimpses on a horizon a possibility of becoming a recipient of a monetary fortune along with no less seductive desire from a part of unhappily married and as devilishly beautiful as resourceful in pursuing her zany in its deadliness schemes, an ultimate femme fatale blond Phyllis (marvellously portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck).

Initially apparent as a romantic, the relationship gradually mutates into double confrontation of the two fears of the two characters in their greedy and ambitious pursuits, a conflict which at one point apparently results in a sort of humanization of Phyllis' character, appearing hiding the eyes of her soul behind the sun glasses, a humanization which is let to happen by her only to accentuate later her unchangeably fatal nature.

The double confrontation gradually evolves into a triple one when the threatening presence on the scene of no less and probably more resourceful character of Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) becomes more and more evident, as a result of his continuous and obsessive investigation conducted with different but nor less ambitious motives. A motives which find its ultimate revelation in a most touching, but finally most hypocritical scene of declaration of love (I love you - I love you too) between Walter Neff and Barton Keyes in the end, exactly reflecting the same nature of previous interactions between Walter and Phyllis, where such moments with the very words used, such as the supreme word of loving affection - Baby lowered to an unthinkable extent, only were a mere preparation to struck another blow in yet another outburst of hate caused by a new misfortunate complication in carrying out so well devised and apparently perfect plan.

Permeated right from the start to the very end with the flavour of unstoppable fatality in an extent that a few other film-noirs achieved, accentuated by the wonderful music score by Miklos Rozsa, Double Indemnity's story is motored by the money like in nearly all of Billy Wilder films. But in this case all the misery produced by it as evident as never before resulting in utter corruption of already corrupted characters and their descent into a such a deep abyss of human misery as probably never before or after in a Hollywood film history, an abyss with no exit, with omnipresent hypocrisy, with no place for sincere human feelings of love, friendship or affection, an abyss to where the characters descent under the monotonous tune of Miklos Rozsa's score, which serves as a reflection of their monotonously hypocrite and ultimately doubly doomed lives. 10/10

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The Not-So-Perfect Crime

Author: Jennifer Tomlin
2 December 2001

Double Indemnity begins with a car speeding on a dark, rainy night. This begins the classic film noir plot. Billy Wilder directs a steamy and grabbing film. Billy Wilder pulls this film together with an awesome cast, perfect lighting and an amusing script. Fred MacMurray plays Walter Neff, an unsuspecting insurance salesman. He is unsuspecting in the sense that he is unaware of what the ‘femme fatale' is going to put him up to. Barbara Stanwyck plays the ‘femme fatale', Phyllis Dietrichson, a manipulative housewife who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

The film begins in present day giving insight into Walter's current plight. Walter Neff gives the voice over as the plot unfolds. It starts in the present time allowing the audience to know what crime has happened without the interesting details to support it. This is an interesting twist to the common film noir plot. Knowing the crime at hand keeps the audience hungry for those details. Walter is the victim of the beautiful woman who manipulates him into pulling off a murderous insurance fraud scam. Walter is an impeccable insurance salesman and Phyllis, in some ways, forces him into providing her with what she needs. Phyllis is the typical ‘femme fatale' who has no problem in using others to get what she wants.

Throughout the film Walter is completely enamored by Phyllis. Walter could have coined the pet name ‘baby' with his fondness towards Phyllis by calling her that throughout the film. He is easily distracted by her beauty and evil charm. He seems to be entranced by Phyllis's ankle bracelet, so much that he mentions it numerous times. This allows the audience to feel the sexual tension between the two. Phyllis, on the other hand, shows the audience that she can use and abuse anyone who gets in her way. While believably attracted to Walter, Phyllis keeps him hopping to fulfill her needs. She pulls him in and handles him like a puppet. She is the epitome of the film noir genre's ‘femme fatale'.

Barton Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson, is Walter's co-worker and friend at the insurance company where he works. Barton closely investigates all insurance claims that come across his desk. While at one time Walter assuredly agreed with this practice, once Barton starts to unravel the mystery behind Mrs. Dietrichson's insurance claim, we begin to see just how nervous and paranoid Walter is. Walter then begins to see Phyllis in a whole new light. Barton plays the integral part by piecing together details that are thrown around throughout the film. This keeps the tension high for the filmgoer. These details are pieced together perfectly through to the end.

Double Indemnity has the perfect plot with the perfect cast. Walter and Phyllis' attraction are tasty and the crime is wonderfully puzzling. Double Indemnity is the true film noir giant.

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The definitive Film Noir.

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Author: Hotstar from Stockport, England
13 April 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Double Indemnity is a film which fully embodies its genre, all the classic noir elements are present: venetian blinds, diagonal lines, a femme fatale and a victim of fate.

Fred MacMurray takes the central role as victim of fate, Walter Neff; cast against type, MacMurray gives a thoroughly convincing performance as a typical insurance salesman transformed into a calculating killer.

The estimable Barbara Stanwyck also delivers a typically faultless performance as the coldhearted and seductive Phyllis Dietrichson who enlists Neff in a plot to kill her husband and cash in on the insurance money.

Although this film may seem clichéd today, as many thrillers since have offered similar plot lines, rarely has the story been told so well. For fans of Film Noir, Stanwyck or MacMurray, this is an absolute MUST SEE!

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best American Film Noir ever made

Author: Mmmavis from Portland, OR
16 March 2004

"I liked the way that anklet bit into her leg. I wanted to see her again, up close, without that silly staircase between us."--Walter Neff, after meeting Phyllis Dietrichson This is Fred MacMurray like you've never seen him before. He's edgy and sharp, and amoral, although he hides it well from his boss. Barbara Stanwyck's astounding performance set the standard for bad girls in Film Noir for years to come. I love this film because it is a perfect example of how the censorship of the time made it so that filmmakers had to get the sexiness across in a subtle way. This movie is undeniably sexy, and there's not a single 'love scene' in it!

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Some times, when they least expect it.....

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Author: jotix100 from New York
17 July 2005

There are occasional times when all the elements come together to make a great film that will stand the passing of time. "Double Indemnity" seems to be an example of this phenomenon.

First, there was a great novel by one of America's best mystery writers, James Cain, who created these characters that seem will live forever in our imagination. Then, the lucky break in getting the right man to direct it, Billy Wilder, a man who knew about how to make a classic out of the material that he adapted with great care and elegance with Raymond Chandler, a man who knew about the genre.

"Double Indemnity" works because it's a story we can relate to. There is a greedy woman trapped in a bad marriage, who sees the opportunity when she encounters an insurance agent who is instantly smitten with her and who has only sex in his mind. The manipulator, Phyllis Dietrichson, doesn't need much to see how Walter desires her. His idea of having her husband sign an insurance policy he knows nothing about, thinking he is doing something else, will prove a fatal flaw in judgment.

Mr. Wilder achieves in this film what others try, with disastrous results. The director, who was working under the old Hays Code, shows so much sex in the film with fully clothed actors, yet one feels the heat exuding from the passion Walter Neff feels for Phyllis. He is a man that will throw everything away because he is blinded by the promise of what his life will be once the husband is out of the picture.

In life, as well as in fiction, there are small and insignificant things that will derail the best laid plans. First, there i Jackson, the man who shouldn't have been smoking at the rear of the train, contemplating the passing landscape. Then, no one counts in the ability of Barton Keys, the man in the agency who has seen it all! Walter and Phyllis didn't take that into consideration and it will backfire on their plan.

We try to make a point to take a look at "Double Indemnity" when it shows on cable from time to time. Barbara Stanwyck makes a magnificent Phyllis. There are no false movements in her performance. Phyllis gets under Walter's skin because she knows where her priorities lie and makes good use of them in order to render Walter helpless under her spell.

Fred McMurray makes a perfect Walter. He is consumed by his passion and he will do anything because of what he perceives will be the reward for doing the crime. Walter Neff was perhaps Mr. McMurray's best creation. He is completely believable and vulnerable.

Edgar G. Robinson, as Barton Keys, makes one of his best performances for the screen. Keys is a man that has seen all the schemes pass by his desk. He is, in a way, Walter's worst nightmare, because working next to Keys, he gets to know how wrong he was in the planning of the crime.

The supporting cast is excellent. Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Buonanova and John Philliber are perfect.

The music score of Miklos Rosza gives the film a texture and a dimension that capitalizes on the action it intends to enhance. Also the music of Cesar Franck and Franz Schubert contribute to the atmosphere of the movie. The great cinematography of John Seitz, who will go on to direct films, is another asset in the movie. Edith Head's costumes are absolutely what a woman like Phyllis would wear right down to her ankle bracelet.

This film shows a great man at his best: Billy Wilder!

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A Superb Noir Film

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Author: The_Experiment_In_Terror from Antarctica
23 December 2002

If you are a noir fan then this film is an absolute must see. The screenplay itself is a work of art in its charater construction, plot structure and dialogue which is delievered by an ensemble of first class actors divying up first class performances. Barbra Stanwyck as the deadly, smouldering, scheming Phyllis Dietrichson turns in a performance that is right up there with Mary Astor's Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Fred McMurray delievers a performance of a smart but desperately lovelorn patsy and Edward G. Robinson is perfect in the role of Barton Keyes and just about steals the moment every time he appears on screen.

I personally love a good Noir film and this is right up there with the best of them. Billy Wilder should be proud of this work eventhough the Academy didn't see it fit to reward him for his efforts, however I personally think this film is an absolute winner.

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Timeless Classic

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Author: MovieMusings from Toronto
4 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is great fun. Sxity years later, it's as taut and engaging and beautiful as any contemporary story.

It simmers, it sizzles, the tension between Neff and Dietrichson is positively palpable. But, as the tension between Neff and Dietrichson fizzles, the tension between Neff and Keyes heats up.

It's as pure a sample of classic film noir as there is, and it does it with unparalleled style.

This is what movie-making is all about. It's not a labrynth of characters and trick endings and gimmicks. In fact, the movie starts with our tragic hero admitting he's the who whodunit...what are we left with?

The story of how and why he dunit, of how he was intoxicated and bewitched, yet came to his senses, not soon enough to save him legally, but at least to come to terms with his own failure.

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For other uses, see Double indemnity (disambiguation).

Double indemnity is a clause or provision in a life insurance or accident policy whereby the company agrees to pay the stated multiple (i.e., double, triple, etc.) of the face amount in the contract in cases of death caused by accidental means. This includes murder by a person other than, and not in collusion with, the beneficiary of the insurance policy, and most accidental deaths. It excludes suicide, and deaths caused by the insured person's own gross negligence, as well as natural causes.[1]

In 2006, 5.01% of all deaths in the United States were declared accidental.[2] For this reason, double-indemnity clauses are usually relatively cheap and often aggressively marketed, especially to people over 45. People with dangerous jobs, such as heavy construction, as well as children, are not generally eligible for multiple-indemnity coverage.[3]


  1. ^ Erle Stanley Gardner, a practicing lawyer before he became an author, explains the difference between "accidental death" and "death by accidental means" in his novel Double or Quits (1941). In the end, the detective proves that the insured person was murdered, and thus the insurance company has to pay the double amount.
  2. ^ "Final Deaths 2006" (PDF) (Press release). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 17, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  3. ^ "Basics of Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance". insurance.com. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
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