double indemnity (billy wilder, 1944)
Saturday, March 18, 2023
I never think of myself as a big Billy Wilder fan, despite the fact that he was #36 on the most recent Best Directors List I made. I've seen 8 of his films, and liked all but one (One, Two, Three), but I know many think good movies like Some Like It Hot and The Apartment are great, which separates me from Wilder's biggest fans. I think he's made one classic, Double Indemnity, with Sunset Boulevard a close second.
I'm not going to try to identify who did what on this movie. Wilder co-wrote the screenplay with Raymond Chandler from a novel by James M. Cain ... I congratulate them all, but I don't know where the best dialogue comes from. For some reason, I am especially taken by this brief exchange:
Walter: The perfume on your hair. What's the name of it?
Phyllis: I don't know. I bought it in Ensenada.
It was nominated for 7 Oscars, but didn't win any (Going My Way was the big winner that year). The three primary actors are iconic: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, and Edward G. Robinson. Everything about the movie is iconic, enough so that if you were only going to show one film to explain what film noir is, Double Indemnity would be a fine choice. Everything is airtight, rather like MacMurray's Walter Neff thinks his murder scheme is airtight, except Walter is wrong. I think it's the best movie Wilder ever made, I think it's the best movie any of the three stars were associated with, and that's some elevated company.