Billy Wilder

USA, 1944 / 110 min / English OV with French subtitles / Thriller, Film Noir

Douglas Kennedy

In the context of Douglas Kennedy’s literary session.

Insurance broker Walter Neff gets seduced by another man’s wife: a bored, sex-starved Phyllis Dietrichson. She wants to off her better half and collect on his policy, doubled in case of an accidental death. Neff is supposed to be the one to do the deed. But spitfire claims-adjuster Barton Keyes smells a rat – or at least the cheap perfume all over that Dietrichson file.


A dazzling, quintessential film noir whose popular success and seven Oscar nominations catapulted Billy Wilder into the very top tier of Hollywood’s writer-directors. Adapted from a novella by James M. Cain, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, it remains the hardest-boiled of delectations.


Credited with a place in history thanks to a reappraisal of the so called ‘Film Noirs’ of the forties and fifties in later decades, Double Indemnity is more than simply an archetype of a film type. A satisfyingly delivered thriller, plotted like a knife slowly twisting in one’s gut, Double Indemnity is beyond everything else a thoroughly gripping film experience and one that it is a pleasure to return to frequently. Craig Skinner On Film, June 2013


But the ace in the hole is Barbara Stanwyck as Phyliss Dietrichson, a vision of amorality in a "honey of an anklet" and a platinum wig. She can lower her sunglasses and make it look like the last word in predatory desire. And she's not just a vamp: she's a psychopath. There are few shots in cinema as bone-chilling as the close-up on Stanwyck's face as Neff dispatches Phyliss's husband in the back seat of a car. Miklós Rózsa's fretful strings tell us throughout the picture: beware. Stanwyck had been reluctant to take the role, confessing: "I was a little frightened of it." Wilder asked whether she was an actress or a mouse. When she plumped for the former, he shot back: "Then take the part." Ryan Gilbey, The Guardian, 17/10/10



“Double Indemnity (1944) is director Billy Wilder's classic film noir masterpiece - a cynical, witty, and sleazy thriller about adultery, corruption and murder. The sensational film was unlike many other films of its time - its storyline of a deliberate and brutal crime inspired by adultery and the promise of insurance money was considered innately amoral, objectionable, and distasteful by the censorious Hays Office.” Tim Dirks, The "Greatest" and the "Best" in Cinematic History

Cast & Credits
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler, based on the novella “Double Indemnity” by James M. Cain
John F. Seitz
Bertram C. Granger
Miklós Rózsa
Buddy DeSylva, Joseph Sistrom
Park Circus Group

Billy Wilder (1906- 2002) was an Austrian screenwriter,forced to flee from the nazi regime to the US where he writes comedies amongst others for Ernst Lubitsch, before he has his first major success as a director in 1944, with « Double Indemnity », the archetypical film noir. He delves deeper into the genre with « The Lost Weekend » (1945), earning him the first of his 6 Academy Awards, as well as “Sunset Boulevard”. His films explore every genre – from social and political fables to thrillers – but he truly excels in comedies such as “Some Like It Hot” or “The Seven Year Itch”.

  • 1934 - Mauvaise Graine
  • 1942 - The Major and the Minor
  • 1943 - Five Graves to Cairo
  • 1944 - Double Indemnity
  • 1945 - Death Mills
  • 1945 - The Lost Weekend
  • 1947 - The Emperor Waltz
  • 1948 - A Foreign Affair
  • 1950 - Sunset Boulevard
  • 1951 - Ace in the Hole
  • 1953 - Stalag 17
  • 1954 - Sabrina
  • 1955 - The Seven Year Itch
  • 1957 - Love in the Afternoon
  • 1957 - The Spirit of Saint Louis
  • 1957 - Witness for the Prosecution
  • 1959 - Some Like It Hot
  • 1960 - The Apartment
  • 1961 - One, Two, Three
  • 1963 - Irma la Douce
  • 1964 - Kiss Me, Stupid
  • 1966 - The Fortune Cookie
  • 1970 - The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
  • 1972 - Avanti!
  • 1974 - The Front Page
  • 1978 - Fedora
  • 1981 - Buddy Buddy