© 1944 Paramount Pictures

Double Indemnity (1944)

Billy Wilder was a filmmaker who could really do anything he wanted to. When he wanted to write a screwball comedy, he wrote one of the best in the form of Ninotchka in 1933. When he wanted to make a courtroom drama, he made one of the best with Witness for the Prosecution in 1957. When he wanted to make a new kind of comedy, he redefined the genre with Some Like It Hot in 1959. When he wanted to make a film noir, he made the very best with Double Indemnity in 1944. While this film does not invent the genre or its hallmarks such as heavy shadows, horizontal lines, staircases, urban settings and voice over narration, it does bring them all together to unforgettable effect.

I have never been crazy about Barbara Stanwyck, but it is hard to think of another actress active in 1944 who could have played this femme fatale role as well as she does. Fred MacMurray is convincing playing against type as a man obsessed with another man’s wife. But the real star of the film is Edward G. Robinson, who steals every scene he is in. Having watched this shortly after seeing him in The Stranger, it clear that he was a much better actor than the brash gangster type he is remembered for.

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