The world of insurance sales will never be as sexy and suspenseful as it is in Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944). The renewal of auto insurance, a transaction that nowadays can be completed in minutes from the relative safety of a smart phone, sets off a series of events punctuated by murder and dripping with deceit, seduction, and betrayal in this Hollywood classic. Co-written by Wilder and mystery novelist Raymond Chandler, DOUBLE INDEMNITY is viewed by many as the first and best American film noir. Studio stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson each took the dual professional risks of playing against type in the film adaptation of a story long viewed as “too taboo” for the screen. Their performances bring life to a razor-sharp script that set the gold standard for film noir, artfully introducing now-clichéd narrative devices like subjective voiceover narration, uncannily accurate detective speculation, and (perhaps most memorably) flirtatious, rapid-fire double entendre. Wilder and Chandler’s script, and particularly Stanwyck’s smoldering performance, keep the audience riveted in suspense for 100-plus minutes, despite the presence of a framing device “spoiling” MacMurray’s fate in the opening scene of the film.
Tag: Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson is one of my favorite actors, especially in the film noir genre. He starred in many classic thrillers, including SCARLET STREET, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, LITTLE CAESAR, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and KEY LARGO. He was such a refined actor, bringing gravitas and history to his characters. His face is so expressive. With just a look, he can convey subtle emotions. Robinson had a strong line delivery, serving his words with poison or pitifulness. The actor made his name as a gangster in LITTLE CAESAR, and that archetype stayed with him. However, his range of characters is wide and appreciable.