Double Indemnity & Unfaithfully Yours

Double Indemnity (1944)

It’s just like the first time I came here, isn’t it? We were talking about automobile insurance, only you were thinking about murder. And I was thinking about that anklet.

In this captivating film noir (directed by Billy Wilder) successful insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is a goner from the moment he sees Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) standing above her stairs wearing only a towel while on a house call.  They are very attracted to each other and carry on a strong flirtation.  But the clever and sultry housewife is thinking of taking out an insurance policy on her husband (without his knowledge) and murdering him.  Though Walter knows this is wrong, he quickly agrees to help Phyllis so that she’ll be free to marry him. 

While Phyllis betrays her husband, Walter betrays his boss and close friend, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson in a rare good guy character role).  Stanwyck told Wilder that she was afraid to take on the role of an out-and-out killer, but was later very glad about her decision.  MacMurray, who thought he couldn’t handle the role, got the chance to show his acting chops.   He’s mostly known for lightweight, Disney roles.  As one IMDB commentator wrote: He is consumed by his passion and he will do anything because of what he perceives will be the reward for doing the crime. Walter Neff was perhaps Mr. MacMurray’s best creation. He is completely believable and vulnerable.

I highly recommend this film because it has an interesting premise, terrific dialogue, and the the two leads have great chemistry together.  The only thing I didn’t like about it- the platinum blonde wig worn by Stanwyck.   

Body Heat (1981) starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner is a reworking of Double Indemnity set in the tropical heat of Florida.  Hurt plays Ned Racine, a small-time, slacker lawyer who quickly falls head over heels in lust with mysterious Matty Walker (Turner), a beautiful young woman married to an older man (played by Richard Crenna).  Ned agrees to help Matty kill her husband, thinking that she reciprocates his love.  But Matty’s only goal is to be rich.


Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

As with Stanwyck, you really can’t go wrong with Rex Harrison!  He was smart, funny, charming, and had a big screen presence.  This screwball black comedy film had me laughing out loud (during many scenes).  But it also has some dark elements and great classical music, too.  Harrison plays a famous British orchestra conductor/nobleman, Sir Alfred de Carter.  Linda Darnell plays his much-younger wife, Daphne.  They seem to have a very lovey-dovey relationship at the opening of the film. 

While he was away, Alfred asked his brother-in-law August to “look after” his wife (in case she was bored/lonely).  But the dimwitted August misunderstood and had a private detective follow Daphne.  Alfred flies off the handle when he hears this: I give you my solemn word, August: if I don’t regain control of myself in a few minutes, concert or no concert, I’ll take this candelabrum and beat that walnut you use for a head into a nutburger, I believe they’re called!

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