Tag: Fred MacMurray

ACF Critic Series #10: Double Indemnity


Terry Teachout and I have worked our way to the pluperfect noir, Double Indemnity, written and directed by the great immigrant observer of America Billy Wilder, with the help of the most famous writer of crime fiction–Raymond Chandler! Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, Hollywood stars, play great roles as fallen lovers and Ed G. Robinson, usually a gangster, plays as well against type, as a hard-nosed, but also honorable insurance investigator. This is one of the great stories about the temptations of America–quick success and insurance! You will see tragedy in everyday life here: Love vs. law, friendship vs. eros, and happiness vs. justice!

Double indemnity


This is the first in a series on Billy Wilder movies; believe it or not, it’s by popular demand & I suppose the noir does fit in some obscure way with the strange, passionate, dangerous times we’re living in… You can read my post celebrating the anniversary of The Maltese falcon to get a sense of where this started, or if you like old movies & what they had to say about America.

Double indemnity was the big movie of 1944. It was accordingly strange. The actors did not want to act, because it’s such a sordid story, but they were persuaded to do it. The writers didn’t want to write it–Hollywood’s most brilliant writer, Billy Wilder, a German Jewish émigré, who had already started on the road to about two-dozen nominations & an half-dozen Oscars, really wanted it done, but his first partner, Charlie Brackett, nixed it for moral concerns. His second partner, who had none such, was none other than Raymond Chandler, the most celebrated American crime writer, then already a successful novelist, his famous stories as yet unfilmed. He did not want to write the movie either, partly because he hated Wilder, who seems to have loved him none too much either, & partly because he hated the novelist he was supposed to be adapting, the aptly named James Cain. Why, you ask? Because Chandler thought highly of his own work & thought the other guy a sleaze, whereas many people did not see the difference… There you go, public & professional concerns of a moral character almost prevented the movie being made. But it did get made & earned seven Oscar nominations, though it was beat soundly by a very moral movie, Leo McCarey’s lovely Bing Crosby picture, Going my way.