A Look At “Double Indemnity”

A movie like Double Indemnity (1944) could never be far-fetched since every fifth episode of Dateline confirms that the premise is authentic. A man and his new female lover, with money in their sights, murder the lover’s lousy husband. Billy Wilder adapted the story from a James M. Cain novel, co-writing it with Raymond Chandler, and although the work is not a signature Wilder flick (as Ace in the Hole and The Apartment are), it serves up the same theme of corruption that resulted in Wilder’s humorous near-misanthropy.

D.I. itself isn’t humorous, of course; it’s potboiler drama with a lot of frowning in it. Do understand, though, that what goes down quite well in an efficient novel—viz., a lot of dialogue—does not necessarily go down well in a movie. Still, it matters that Chandler authored the characters’ talk, so adult and peppery. . . Wilder turned out a decent film noir, without—fortunately—becoming known for film noir.

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