Day 29 of Noirvember: My Favorite Noir
If you know anything about me at all, you know that Double Indemnity is my favorite film noir, without question or hesitation. It’s the film that, when I wasn’t quite a teen, introduced me to the world of noir. I hadn’t yet heard of film noir at that tender age, but I knew that I was just as fascinated by Phyllis Diedrichson’s anklet – and all that it represented – as was Walter Neff, and I knew that whatever kind of movie this was, I wanted to see more.
Before my first viewing of Double Indemnity, I’d only seen Fred MacMurray as the affable dad in the popular television series My Three Sons. Still, I found it not at all odd to see him as a much younger, quite attractive man, or hear him calling Barbara Stanwyck “baby” in that staccato style he had, or take in his utterances of sexual innuendos that I was just a bit too young to fully understand. And later, with more experienced viewing, I began to feel that MacMurray was perfectly cast in the role, and was completely believeable in his portrayal of how quickly a man with standards and morals could transform into a calculated murderer.
As for MacMurray’s co-star, Barbara Stanwyck, I had enjoyed her films since I was barely three feet tall, it seems – movies like Stella Dallas and Ball of Fire and Meet John Doe made me an instant fan. But her performance in Double Indemnity was another thing altogether. From the moment she appeared in the film to greet MacMurray at the top of her stairs, I was hooked.
With these two stars in the lead, Edward G. Robinson’s performance in Double Indemnity was like the proverbial cherry on the sundae. His energetic, fast-talking portrayal of Barton Keyes was sheer perfection for me – he was at once shrewd, lovable, determined, fearsome, compassionate, and uncompromising.
Aside from the performers, I love Double Indemnity because of the dialogue. Even today, after countless viewings, I still smile throughout the exchange between Walter and Phyllis that involves the metaphor of a speeding motorcycle. And the movie contains countless stand-alone quotes that epitomize the essence of film noir, like the one in the opening scene, in which Walter confesses to murder: “I killed him for money. And for a woman. I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?”
Whenever I introduce a newcomer to the world of film noir, I tell them to watch Double Indemnity. It has everything – the shadowy scenes, the femme fatale, the classic dialogue, the murder, the double cross.
What more could you ask for?
Join me tomorrow for Day 30 – the last day (sniff!) of Noirvember!!