"Double Indemnity" (movie and book)

The movie–my favorite film noir–is on TCM Tuesday the 18th at 8:00 p.m., catch it if you’ve never seen it. Coincidentally, I hauled out a video of it last week and watched it, and just now finished rereading the 1936 novelette by James M. Cain. It’s one of those cases where the book is as good as, or even better than, the movie, and in this case that’s quite a compliment. Though I’ll admit the brilliant Carol Burnett parody (Double Calamity) has somewhat ruined the movie for me.

The book is scary as . . . I was going to say “shit,” but shit’s not really all that scary, is it? I am not going to give away the ending (which is considerably different than the movie). But I will note that Phyllis, the Barbara Stanwyck character, is crazier than a shithouse rat. Here’s a little monologue of hers toward the beginning, where she and Walter are first planning to kill her husband:

And the ending of the book is one of the most chilling and terrifying bits of writing I have ever come across.

So, watch the movie on Tuesday, then rush to the library and get the book!!

Supposedly, later this year it’ll be released on DVD by Criterion, but we’ll see. It’s a shame that Billy Wilder’s second-best film is not yet on DVD.

You gotta read the book. It’ll scare the pants off you.

Or, if you’re pantsless while reading it, it will scare them back onto you.

FYI Gobear it is on


It’s a bare-bones version, but better than nothing.

I’ll bite… best is ?

The Front Page
The Fortune Cookie
The Apartment
Some Like It Hot
Witness for the Prosecution
The Seven Year Itch
Stalag 17
Ace in the Hole
Sunset Blvd
A Foreign Affair (1948)
The Emperor Waltz (1948)
Death Mills (1945)
The Lost Weekend (1945)

Yeah, she did it to GWTW for me. “It’s just something I saw in the window,” indeed!

Fred MacMurray was great in “Double Indemnity,” too, though not as great as he was in the role in which he became My Personal Role Model and Hero For All Time: the father on “My Three Sons.” Man, he was brilliant! Okay, the acting was lousy but to negotiate a contract in which he filmed a season’s worth of reaction shots and generic, “Do you think that was the right thing to do, Robbie?” and “Now you boys run along,” cuts at once while getting top billing and paid more than just about anybody in TV? Fred’s brilliance outshown the sun!

But those are all auction items–there’s no shopping cart link because the disc is OOP and has been for years.

Ace in The Hole (AKA The Big Carnival). IMO, it is the darkest, most cutting commentary on human nature ever filmed.

Then it’s off to to the library for me.

I remember the Double Calamity scene in the grocery store, with Carol Burnett and Steve Lawrence in dark glasses and trench coats, planning the murder:

Steve [whispering]: “We’ll shoot him in the back while he’s playing Chinese Checkers, then push his body out of the Goodyear blimp over the Rose Bowl game. It’ll look like an accident.”

Carol: "What?

Passing little old lady: “He said, ‘We’ll shoot him in the back while he’s playing Chinese Checkers, then push his body out of the Goodyear blimp over the Rose Bowl game. It’ll look like an accident!’”

Double Indemnity is my very favorite piece of film noir, too, Eve. I haven’t seen it in a couple of years, so I’ll be sure to tune in tomorrow.

It’s funny how Fred MacMurray is so well-remembered for the genial dad he played on My Three Sons, yet for me, his finest performances were his villains. These he played in Double Indemnity and as the world’s biggest SOB in The Apartment. He also looks a little like my dad, so his career always interested me. In the thread about wealthy and not-so-wealthy celebrities now open in Cafe Society, I was surprised to learn how stinkin’ rich the guy was.

Don’t forget the colossal weasel he played in The Caine Murtiny.

Best fillum noir… DI is pretty high but Fred MacMurray is such a limp noodle. How about Kiss of Death? Richard Widmark alone brings this one close to the top. How about The Big Heat? Gloria Grahame, yum… How about DOA? How about some others, especially you, Eve?

That’s weird. I was looking at the James M. Cain section at the library this week because I just saw both of The Postman Always Rings Twice-es last week and I wanted to see if the book was there but all they had was Double Indemnity. I skipped it. Now I’m really curious especially since I often think of myself as death and feel really beautiful. (Not really but I will start.) I will get it next week.

I have been reading a book called Film Noir in the bathtub lately.

I’ll be watching it, and I just bought the book on eBay (it came with The Postman Always Rings Twice to boot).

Off topic, but interesting: Fred Macmurray was the model for Captain Marvel. C.C. Beck chose his face because he thought it would inspire trust in the reader.

For me, Double Indemnity is a solid number 2 on my all-time favorite film noir list. But my favorite is Out of the Past. Robert Mitchum is the ultimate film noir (anti) hero, and he has the best film noir line of all time:

Kathie (Jane Greer): “I don’t want to die.”
Jeff (Mitchum): “Neither do I, baby, but if I have to, I’m going to die last.”

But that was the point—gimlet-eyed Phyllis found herself a spineless schmoe she could coerce into killing her hubby, then get rid of him, too.

Out of the Past, Blue Dahlia, Gilda, Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Kiss of Death, even Lady from Shanghai (despite Orson Welles’ “They’re always after me Lucky Charms!” accent), good films all. But Double Indemnity is still No. 1 on my Noir List.

Eve, if you like James Cain you really oughta check out the novels of Jim Thompson. Dark dark stuff. His novel The Grifters is one that was made into a film you may be familiar with. He also wrote the screenplay for one of Stanley Kubrick’s early films “The Killing”. Sterling Hayden is ice cold. Really worth checking out.

Well, did anyone catch it last night?

I did. I was home late form the gym, so I missed the first 20 minutes, but I watched it and The Postman Always Rings Twice right after as well.

Oh, was that you who left a message on my office phone last night? It was kinda garbled, I couldn’t quite make it out.

(Something about “drop him on the train tracks?”)