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Film Studies 101
Feature
Become A Film Noir Expert In Ten Easy Movies
Master a genre in just a handful of films

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Become A Film Noir Expert In Ten Easy Movies | Double Indemnity (1944)
Double Indemnity (1944)

Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson
Tagline: “From the moment they met it was murder!”

Aside from a cast of store-ready villains, cinema doesn’t have a whole lot to thank the Nazis for, but it can say a big “thanks” for Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder. Both were driven out of the Third Reich and delivered their genius to Hollywood's doorstep. The former helped establish the shadowy look of the noir; the latter helped define it with this great thriller. Double Indemnity framed a murder mystery with a newsreel narrative and turned traditional studio casting on its head. Wilder turned the clean-cut good guys – Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray – into murderous shysters, and picked a bad guy, Edward G. Robinson, to play the smart, moral man who relentlessly pursues them. Smartly, he also turned to the don of detective prose, Raymond Chandler, to shape James M. Cain’s novel into a screenplay - and what a screenplay. MacMurray’s Walter Neff (“Two ‘F’s, like in Philadelphia”), an insurance salesman with a moral compass that wouldn't get him to the next corner and back, packs some great lines (“How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?”) but the real dozys belong to the honeysuckle, Stanwyck’s arch-villainess Phyllis Dietrichson. Together with Robinson, they barnstorm possibly the greatest film ever made about insurance.

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