Double Indemnity
Still from Double Indemnity, part of Cinema Rediscovered

Double Indemnity

classified PG

When Europe Made Hollywood: From Sunrise to High Noon


Please note: This was screened in July 2022

Billy Wilder
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
107 mins, 1944, USA
Primary language

Adapted by Billy Wilder and the poet of crime writing Raymond Chandler from James M. Cain’s pulp novel, Double Indemnity is a sizzling, simmering tale of seduction and murder where our wise-cracking hero, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is seduced way out of his depth by the bracelet charms, and more, of Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck).

Wilder, Austrian-born into a Jewish family, is probably the most well-known of the European émigré directors. His Hollywood career was long and successful: classics like Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment regularly appear in top film lists.

Moving to Berlin in the 1920s, Wilder worked as a journalist covering sport and crime which would put him in good stead for his American career. With the rise of Fascism in the 1930s, Wilder like many others fled first to France and then onto America. His family members’ experience of the terminal brutality of the Nazis and his journalistic insights into the seedier and duplicitous side of life would inevitably feed into a view of humanity which was more flawed and complex than the simplicity of Hollywood’s happy endings.

Presented in collaboration with Film Noir UK.

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