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Sunday, September 16, Golden Auditorium (Little Hall), 8:30pm
Bring Paper and Pencil

Double Indemnity (1944)

Director: Billy Wilder*
Executive Producer: B.G. DeSylva (Paramount)
Producer: Joseph Sistrom*
Screenplay: Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder*; from the novel by James M. Cain
Director of Photography: John F. Seitz*
Music: Miklos Rozsa*
Sound: Loren L. Ryder*
Principle Cast:
Fred MacMurray Walter Neff
Barbara Stanwyck* Phyllis Dietrichson
Edward G. Robinson Barton Keyes
Porter Hall Mr. Jackson
Jean Heather Lola Dietrichson
Tom Powers Mr. Dietrichson
Byron Barr Nino Zachette
Richard Gaines Mr. Norton

* Academy Award Nomination

106 minutes. Phyllis Dietrichson seduces insurance agent Walter Neff into devising a brilliant scheme to murder her husband and collect on his accident insurance policy. But after the crime is committed, Neff’s passion for Phyllis sours, and it begins to look as if she has used him for her own purposes. What’s more, the schemers may be found out as the cunning Barton Keyes—cheif claims investigator and Neff’s best friend—is suspicious of the circumstances of the supposed accident... Can they get out before it’s too late, or will they have to ride to the end of the line?

Adapted from Silver & Ward, eds. (1992) Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, 3rd Ed. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press.

See the IMDb Double Indemnity page
for full cast and production details,
goofs, quotes, and more.

Some Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways, and to what extent, does this film fit into the stylistic category of film noir? Consider:
    • plot,
    • characters (not only their types, but also their emotions, motivations, and interrelations),
    • visual elements (use of light and shadow, camera placement and movement, shot composition, framing, use of deep focus...), and
    • sound
    Also consider how the various elements listed work systematically to reinforce each other and convey a mood and a meaning in a sequence or in the film as a whole.

  2. Come up with three adjectives each for: Walter Neff, Phyllis Dietrichson, Barton Keyes. Consider how the movie conveys the attributes you describe with the adjectives.

  3. Compare Neff to Spade as noir “protagonists”, and Phyllis to Brigid as femmes fatales. How are they similar and different? Tie this to similarites/differences in the movies overall

  4. Is there an overall moral structure to this film, and if so, how is it displayed and fulfilled (or undermined)?

  5. Discuss the similarities/differences in the endings of The Maltese Falcon, and Double Indemnity.

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