Study Guide -
Double Indemnity (1944)
Director : Billy Wilder
Fred MacMurray .... Walter Neff
Barbara Stanwyck .... Phyllis Dietrichson
Edward G. Robinson .... Barton Keyes
Read the movie reviews at filmsite.org
Historical/Social Significance :
The film's story was based on a real-life crime in March of 1927 perpetrated by married Queens, NY housewife Ruth (Brown) Snyder and her lover, a 32 year-old corset salesman Judd Gray. She persuaded her "Lover Boy" to kill her husband Albert, editor of Motor Boating magazine, after having her spouse take out a $48,000 insurance policy - with a double-indemnity clause. But their sloppy, conspiratorial murder was quickly detected and they were apprehended. Both were convicted and sentenced to death - and were electrocuted in January of 1928 at Sing Sing. - Tom Dirks
The influence of this definitive film noir can be found in other countless imitations ever since - Tom Dirks
Phyllis Dietrichson seduces Insurance agent Walter Neff to help her get rid of her husband..
Guided Questions for Viewing :
Assessment questions will be based on the following :
In what way does this movie fit in as a film noir?
What were the motivations of femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson in the movie.
In film noir, many of the male leads are weak, flawed men. How does Walter Neff fit this profile?
In film noir, lighting is often a major component. Discuss the use of fractured lighting in Double Indemnity with respect to particular scenes.
- Many male leads who were doing criminal activities still managed to have an aura of a heroic character about them. Do you think if Phyllis Dietrichson was a male she would appear more heroic?
- Talk about Keyes and his role in the movie. Was he the hero? Was he the main character?
Dirks, Tom. "Double Indemnity". http://filmsite.org/doub.html