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The behind-the-scenes story of the quintessential film noir and cult classic, Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity—its true crime origins and crucial impact on film history—is told for the first time in this riveting narrative published for the film's 80th anniversary.
From real crime to serial to novel to movie, the history of Double Indemnity is as complex and exciting as the plot of any to hit the screen during film noir’s classic period. Born of a true crime that inspired reporter and would-be crime writer James M. Cain’s novella, Hollywood quickly bid on the rights but throughout the 1930s a strict code of censorship made certain that no studio could green-light a murder melodrama based on real events. Then World War II loosened some strictures, and director-writer Billy Wilder—before his prime as director of sparkling comedies—could hire hardboiled novelist Raymond Chandler and revamp the story enough to pass the censors.
Overcoming strong resistance, Wilder then lined up a star cast led by the incomparable Barbara Stanwyck in her unforgettable turn as the ultimate femme fetale, alongside Fred MacMurray, cast against type as her partner in crime, and Edward G. Robinson as a bloodhound claims adjuster. With these skilled actors set against a low-key look, Wilder’s final film became one of the earliest studio noirs to gain critical and commercial success (nominated for 7 Oscars!), to influence the entire noir movement, and to impact filmmakers and audiences to this day.
Authors Alain Silver and James Ursini tell the complete history of Double Indemnity in their latest and most provocative work on film noir: From the Moment They Met It Was Murder.