Mad Men & Wilder Women: Focus on Billy Wilder ACMI Presents

Double Indemnity

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“Film noir is the most intoxicating of Hollywood cocktails, and none is more potent than Double Indemnity”

After a routine house visit, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is roped into Phyllis Dietrichson’s (Barbara Stanwyck) perfect plan to kill her husband and split the insurance payout.

Billy Wilder's 1944 film noir is exemplary of the genre that birthed hardboiled crime, bad decisions and so many femme fatales with murder on their mind. At the core of almost all film noir is the choice between good and evil, often reflected through a good girl and a woman of "questionable morality".

For a male audience, films like Double Indemnity offered cautionary tales of what happens when men follow their lesser natures. For women, many of who had recently entered the workforce, and who made up most cinema-goers during wartime, the cautionary tale was different. The Production Code, which was in full force at the time, stipulated that no one could get away with murder on screen, so this often meant that female characters, almost all of who were seeking financial independence from their husbands, were often met with a grisly end.