Double Indemnity

September 3, 2013

Examples of film noir such as Double Indemnity are said to show the dark side of American life at a time of prosperity.  Based on what you’ve seen so far, how do you feel the film shows both American prosperity and the dark side of daily life?  What do you think about the characters and the film overall?



  1. From what we have seen so far, this film shows American prosperity through the man selling the insurance policies. It also shows prosperity through the woman attempting to cash in on an insurance policy on her husband. It shows the dark side of daily life through the woman wanting to kill her husband to cash in the policy and also when the daughter lies to her parents about where she is going. So far I think the characters are interesting and well portrayed and the film is entertaining.

  2. Based on what I have seen so far, the film shows that even during this time of prosperity,everyone is still hungry for money. Greed is taking over. Some will do whatever it takes to get as much money as possible. The poor are even more desperate for the money. In the scene with Barton Keyes, the middle aged hard working man was trying to commit insurance fraud, which was unsuccessful. With the love triangle aside, Phyllis is still trying to milk her husband for all he is worth. In regard to the characters of the film, they are for the most part easily corruptable,romantic, and greedy in Walter Neffs and Phyllis Dietrichson’s case. Barton Keyes is greedy, but just.

  3. So far from what I have seen about the movie is that American Prosperity is shown through many aspects. Such as the Insurance salesman trying to sell his Insurance and going after the woman who he loves. Also the wife trying to cash in on the “death” of her husband by cashing in the money that he has. Also the daughter who disobeys her parents and meets the boy who she isnt supposed to. She wants to see the man and live her dream with him.

  4. So far in the film, I feel that American Prosperity is shown through the class of characters the film focuses on. All you see are the rich insurance men, and the wealthy customers that they deal with. The only poor person is shown as a swindler with little intelligence. As for the dark side of life, that is shown instantly through the music and the figure walking on crutches slowly towards the camera. After the credits end, the dark music continues but adds the constant dark lighting. Most of the key events take place at night which adds to the evil feeling of the film. Aside from the lighting and music, darkness is shown in the way the characters think and interact. There is never really a moment when you get to look at any of the characters in a positive light; all of them are introduced in such a way that they are deceitful, angry, or conniving from the very beginning. I think that the characters are pretty much one-dimensional at this point because very little change in emotion has been shown except in the lead man who refers to his feelings of guilt. I also think the acting is a bit rigid and obvious, but that may have simply been the intention or the period. Overall, I’m enjoying the film, and I’m very interested to see what happens so that the man loses the woman he fell in love with.

  5. “Double Indemnity” does a great job of showing the dark side of human nature in a time when most people were not thinking of the dark side. The dark side is presented through the imagery and actions of the characters. The dark side is noticeable immediately in the opening credits of the deep music and the silhouette of an injured man walking on crutches. The dark side is also displayed as the main character is walking gloomily into his office building and is cheerfully greeted by the doorman trying to make upbeat small talk with him. He enters his office and confesses to murder and conspiracy to his boss. Later the dark side is shown as the insurance salesman and the wife conspire to murder her husband and collect on his policy. There is constant deceit between the two main characters, such as fooling the husband into signing his own life insurance policy and not his automotive insurance.
    The prosperous side of American life is shown in who the characters are. The main characters are presented as having wealth and education. A wealthy insurance salesman attempting to sell expensive insurance to the wealthy business man is the opening to the plot. At first we think the insurance salesman might do the moral thing and walk out when the wife starts asking about life insurance. He does at first, but later she comes back and the conspiracy to kill the husband is in full swing. I think the dark elements are much easier to notice than the light. When watching this it is difficult to remember it was made almost seventy years ago so the acting is very out dated and obvious, but the film is definitely intriguing, and I am anxious to see how the story unfolds.

  6. EDIT!
    “Double Indemnity” tackles many issues of human nature, especially the dark side not seen in those days. The main character, Walter Neff, gets sucked into an insurance scheme that will grant Phyllis Dietrichson, the wife of a very wealthy man, a large sum of money. She wants to do this out of hatred for the old man and jealousy because of his daughter whom he gives everything to. The movie, presumable opens at the end of the film, where Walter Neff is admitting his guilt. This shows that his character cannot deal with what he has done anymore and truly chews him up from the inside out until he spews out the truth. Although it is unsure what will happen to Mrs. Dietrichson, who Walter falls deeply for just minutes after seeing her. It is because of this love that he is sucked into this scheme of fraud and murder.
    Many cases in “Double Indemnity” show American Prosperity in Daily life. The characters who are in on the plot will do anything to get what they want. Walter will set up a fraud Life Insurance claim to gain the love of Mrs. Dietrichson, and she will set up the murder to gain money from her husband who she hates. The daughter also comes into play in the beginning half of the film from which we have seen. Lola Dietrichson just wants to be happy with the man she loves, and will lie and deceit her parents in order to be with him, like telling them that she is going “Roller Blading”
    The film so far is what I have expected. It has given away major plot details and I expect a few twists and turns towards the end of the picture. The dialogue and directing is superb and keeps dragging me back in to each scene. The lighting for a black and white movie is very good as well, everything is visible and nothing is too dark as where you cannot see it.

  7. From what I’ve seen of the film so far, I can certainly see some ways in which Double Indemnity depicts American prosperity as well as the dark side of daily life. To begin, prosperity can be seen in the lives of the main characters. Walter Nett is a well-off insurance agent, making a living by selling policies to other well-off people who can afford to buy them. He meets Phyllis Dietrichson, who is another fine example of American prosperity. When he first meets her she is on the second floor of her huge, beautiful home, and she comes down to greet him in a stylish, elegant ensemble with perfectly polished hair and make up. At the same time we are also introduced to the Dietrichson’s maid, Nettie, further demonstrating that this family has a lot of money.
    Not long after we see all of this prosperity, we start to see the dark side of daily life creeping in. First, Walter is immediately attracted to Phyllis, and immediately begins to flirt with her and fantasize about her despite the fact that she is married and he was actually visiting her home to see her husband in the first place. Phyllis, in turn, recognizes and reciprocates Walter’s flirtation, and begins to concoct a plan to suit her needs. She soon reveals to us that she wants out of her marriage and that her husband has left all of his fortune to his daughter in his will. At first Walter sees what Phyllis wants from him, and at first he refuses to help her. But it only takes a little bit more seduction from Phyllis for Walter to change his mind, and just like that he declares his love for Phyllis and comes up with an elaborate plan to murder Mr. Dietrichson, starting by tricking him into signing up for accident insurance to insure Phyllis would receive a hefty chunk of change upon his death. So, with these two characters it’s very easy to see the dark side of daily life. Walter, while working his job, allows himself to easily fall for a married woman, and Phyllis, bored in her giant home, seduces Walter into doing her bidding.
    Another example of the dark side of daily life can be seen in Mr. Dietrichson’s daughter Lola. When Walter goes to the Dietrichson residence to fool Mr. Dietrichson into signing up for accident insurance, you see Lola argue with her parents about going out, promising she isn’t going to see a boy that they don’t approve of. Soon after we discover that Lola is waiting in Walter’s car when he goes to leave, and she asks him to give her a ride to see the boy she just promised she wouldn’t, and he agrees to do so. So here we see the dark side of daily life in the shape of a teenager whose parents just don’t understand.
    In my opinion, the characters are certainly not boring – they hold my attention very well. I enjoy the film so far, and I’m interested to see what will happen next.

  8. This film is very intriguing to me so far because to me it shows how “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” Here we have Phylis who lives in an extremely expensive house for this time period and she is unhappy. She states when she goes over to Neds’ house that her husband keeps her locked up and is always away on business trips and when he is home gives all of his attention to their daughter. Not only that but he has left her nothing in his will and has left everything to his daughter. This leaves Phylis feeling neglected and hurt, causing her to come up with part of their devilish plan. By Phylis living a rich and lavish lifestyle it shows the viewer the prosperity of the time period but it also shows the dark side of the time period by bringing out the reality of her life and all of the dark deceptions and lies the movie is starting to spiral out of control with.

  9. From what we have seen of the film so far, a few examples of American prosperity and the dark side of daily life. The two main characters are both well off, in the sense that they have access to money. Mrs.Dietrichson is married to money, and Walter has a steady job. The America that is depicted in the movie is not the same as the America today. Women did not have as much rights as they do today which would be what Mr.Dietrichson can be so harsh towards his wife. Also the power that Mrs.Dietrichson has over Walter allows her to manipulate him into doing whatever she wants. I feel as though the relationship between Walter and Mrs.Dietrichson is so fast paced that it is hard to believe the power she holds over him. I feel like the film could be more in depth in showing their relationship. I enjoy the old feel of the movie. Some parts are harder to relate to because movies today do not use action like it, such as the dramatic kissing, etc. I am excited to watch the rest of the movie.

  10. What I notice about the character is that Walter Nett is a handsome man, who seems like a well off man who sells insurance for a living. He work with other people who seem like striving well off American worker, whose make living by selling insurance policies to people who can afford them. One afternoon Nett met Phyllis Dietrichson, who seem like she have it all, wealth, look and family. Nett is immediately attracted to Phyllis because of how beautiful she is, he kept thinking about her. Phyllis told Nett that her husband is never home, Nett flirt with Phyllis and fantasize about her even thought she is marry and that she told him that she want to put a insurance on her husband without her husband knowing. She reveals that she will get nothing from her husband if anything was to happen to him because his will is to have everything to go to his daughter. Nett plan out how he and Phyllis would trick her husband to sign the insurance and plan her husband timely death.
    This whole movie is a flashback of Nett recalling what happening and what he had done and why.
    I personally don’t like watching women cheating on their husband or trying to kill their husband, because that’s my own personal preferences. Watching is interesting because I am force to watch something I would normally won’t watch. I do enjoy the silly moment of how dramatic certain scene are like when Nett kissing and holding Phyllis.

  11. Based on what we have watched so far, in the idea of the darker side of daily life, I felt that when Walter is smoking at the beginning the way his body was positioned hunching over and the addition of profuse sweating matched with his low tone of voice (not only when smoking but also in the elevator) very clearly illustrated this idea. I also felt the idea was amplified by Walters drinking to deal with his daily stressors.
    On the opposite hand, when Walter first arrives at Phyllis’ house, the camera pans to show a neighborhood of wealthy and deluxe homes, and children playing and laughing in the streets. At her home, maids answer the door, clean and answer to her orders. To me, this showed the idea of American prosperity by focusing on the high life.
    For characters, based on my observations, Walter is cocky, pompous and manipulative, but at the same time he is also smart and clever. Phyllis I believe to be seductive and clever, but I also feel that she is incredibly sneaky and that she is hiding something incredibly dramatic, which leads her to not only play dumb in a sense, but also to go after Walter in order to protect whatever it is she is hiding for the time being. Lastly, I see that Keyes is incredibly intelligent, but also very paranoid and has a quick temper.

  12. I suppose the dark side of daily life is shown through the double lives that everyone lives. Phyllis plays the role of a step-mother well enough, but I don’t suppose that anyone outside of Walter would suspect her deepest dream of killing her husband and reaping the benefit. Her dark side, I think, shows that nothing is ever good enough – and the money from her husband’s death probably won’t be enough for her greed. Walter shows everyone but Phyllis the side of him that portrays a well-to-do insurance man, not a potential murderer. And even Lola has more than one side, she lies to Phyllis and her father, pretending that she will be going bowling with a friend, when she is in fact meeting up with Nino – a man who seems far from the gentleman that she makes him out to be. None of these characters, except maybe Mr. Dietrichson (the grumpy man that he is) is a clean cut as they seem. This brings me to the idea of propensity and that everything everyone has must be in excess. Phyllis wants more money than she could ever spend, Walter wants all of the love that Phyllis will give him (whether or not it is real, I don’t know), and Lola wants the perfect life with a man who will never change. The concept of taking more than one needs is in abundance. (Which I also think is shown when Walter convinces Phyllis that her husband must die in a freak train accident so that her insurance claim doubles). As far as the characters and the film go, I enjoy them both. I think it’s interesting to find a male protagonist who so quickly falls for a woman that he is willing to commit insurance fraud for her and even make a plan to kill her husband. But while I do enjoy meeting a male character that is so easily manipulated, I don’t having a particularly strong feeling of sympathy toward Phyllis. I get the sense that there is even more cruelty to her than what we have encountered thus far. And although I was expecting to hate having the plot given away at the beginning of the film, I find that the reveal to the truth is an exciting path to follow.

  13. Based on what I have viewed in “Double Indemnity”, there is a great focus on the characters dark side. While watching I was not expecting for the characters to be so open about how they feel. The character Phyllis really showed how American Success was back then. Phyllis told the character Walter how she felt about her husband, and she wants to murder her husband. I am enjoying the film a lot so far. I want to know what is going to happen to her husband,and what types of obstacles will they run into. The film has me on the edge of my seat.

  14. While watching this film I noticed that it shows a lot about money and the people who seem to have it, for the most part it talks about the main characters. Walter is an insurance man and he is trying to sell insurance to Phyllis and her husband. However, American prosperity is shown for the fact that Walter is a hard working individual who works for his money. I also thought it was interesting that Phyllis married into money, and she isn’t necessarily rich herself.
    I think the dark side of daily life is portrayed by the entire plot. A housewife is unhappy with her husband, and she also doesn’t like his daughter, which is her stepdaughter. I thought that was interesting because it’s actually common to watch movies or tv shows where a step parent hates a step child. Also, I think the film dispalys the dark side of daily life by portraying the daughter as someone who lies to her father, because he forbids her to hang out with certain people, asks a lot of questions, and is very strict with his ruling; it’s almost as if both Phyllis and the daughter hate living with this man. Another protrayal of the dark side of daily life is Phyllis hating her marriage, and doming up with the plan to cash an insurance policy on him so she can kill him. It’s interesting to see that Phyllis acts so happy with her marriage in her house and around her husband, but the audience knowns what she is planning and that she is completely unhappy.
    I think Walter might let his feelings get the best of him in this film. At first he was against doing this for Phyllis, but he caved and his now helping her plan. Because he has involved himself in this plot, there is no way for him to escape; he has hurt himself and put himself in a difficult position and he might have to end up facing the consequences later on .I am anxious to see how the film turns out and what circumstances they all put themselves in and how it ends up for each of them.

  15. Prosperity is introduced very early in the film and so far, it is obvious that money is important to the characters in the film. We are introduced to the main character, Walter who describes that he killed someone one for money. We also find out that he works as an insurance salesman, traveling house to house to make sales. The other main character, Phyllis, is a stay at home wife who wants to kill her husband to get some of his insurance money. From only seeing half the film, I think it is obvious that the main motivation for the main characters is getting money. The dark side of daily life is also portrayed, more specifically with Phyllis. She at first appears to be a wealthy, well-to-do housewife but later we find out that she is terribly unhappy with her drunk husband, who mistreats her. But Phyllis is no angel, she is flirtatious and falls in love with another man (Walter) while she is a married woman. To add her to her “dark side” she also wants her husband dead, and plans to trick him into getting life insurance so she can get some money out of his death. Walter and Phyllis even plot the best way to kill him so they can get the most money.
    I’m curious to see what happens with the two main characters. Walter quickly fell for Phyllis but as he told us in the beginning of the film, he does not end up with his girl. Walter starts off as just being an insurance salesman but then he gets caught up in doing the dirty work for Phyllis. I think Phyllis is a bit dramatic, I understand she is very unhappy with her husband, but I’m not sure that killing him for his money is the best option she could have chosen. I don’t typically watch older movies, but this film honestly kept me entertained throughout the class and I look forward to seeing how things pan out for Walter and Phyllis.

  16. Walter is doing decently well for himself at the beginning of the film. Hes not rich, but he also isn’t poor. But i think there’s this taint that appears over him after he meets Phyllis. He wants her, but I think she could also symbolize prosperity and how men will do anything to get out on top – even kill. He wants Phyllis so badly he agrees to kill her husband. Walter falls deeper and deeper into trouble as the film progresses. The film does a good job of showing that dark side (Phyllis’ want to kill her rich husband for money) behind prosperity.

    I found the film quite interesting! When he starts his story of how it all happened, the lighting in the scenes are bright and cheerful. He goes into her house and its a little bit darker in there. But as the film progresses, the lighting in the scenes gradually get darker and darker, until you get to the scene where Phyllis arrives at Walters apartment and the lights are off completely (representing his mood and foreshadowing his decision).

    I find Walter to be a bit stupid to be honest. He gives in to a pretty lady that he hardly knows. It’s obvious that she is using him. He’s blinded by lust, I think.

  17. Double Indemnity has two different sets of American people who correspond with both the Dark Side of American Life and Prosperity. You have the insurance salesman who fits American Prosperity. A young man who has a good job and who seems to have built a good life for himself. There there is the young lady who wants to cash in an insurance policy on her husband, killing him and that shows the Dark Side of American Life. Now, what I am interested in finding out is how such and upstanding man who shows American Prosperity get involved with the Dark Side of America going along with this lady’s plan. Is it love? Maybe greed? I am very excited to see how the film ends.

  18. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems that the “America Prosperity” seems to directly be effected by 2 major events, those being the Great Depression and World War II. Having seen several film noirs that were released earlier then this (1944), I can say that they geneal atmosphere before and after Pearl Harbor changed the overall tone. This post-Pearl Harbor film seems to delve into realms of human behavior that were much darker then most previous Noirs that I’ve seen. While the Upper middle class is primary who is being examined here, aside from a brief mention of the daughter’s boyfriend being “Nicer then he looks”, the lower classes are rarely seen or heard. The prosperity exists here, but it is combined with the thoughts and feelings of the world.

  19. What’s surprised me thus far is the extent to which stereotypical characters are portrayed in a film created in 1944. I feel this way with classic literature sometimes, too — whether a story is created in the 1900s or 2013, certain characters and behaviors are always present. In Double Indemnity, Phyllis Dietrich is the same damel in distress that can be seen in countless other stories — take fairytales of princesses, for example. Lilian Dietrich is the same teenager that we see in sitcoms everywhere, lying to her parents about a boy and devising ways to date in secret. This creates a problem for me — if, in the relatively early days of cinematic greatness, Double Indemnity shows tired, stagnant characters…how does anything innovative ever come about? Perhaps as a viewer in 2013, my judgment of “tired” comes from previous experiences that were created after 1944 — my movie-history timeline does not follow the timeline that is movie creation in general. I’m interested to see if Double Indemnity continues in this path, or if the characters (particularly the females) will break out of their molds.

  20. I think that the film demonstrates the prosperity of living through the emphasis of the house and neighborhood in the beginning of the film. The neighborhood that appears in the beginning is one where children are carelessly playing in the streets and the huge house with a two car garage in the background. the children would not be playing so carelessly with toys in an era where the parents wouldn’t have the money to afford the toys let alone nice and shiny new clothes. The two car garage shows the ability to have two cars, which isn’t cheap and most couldn’t afford it. the big house is symbol enough to show the wealth of the family. The dark side of life that is demonstrated through the want to murder a husband for not tending to her everyday need and catering to her so she decides to kill him. Which in any society would be a dark and twisted urge. I Think the insurance salesman and desperate housewife love affair after two flirtatious afternoons is hard to believe, no matter how starved for attention she is. Its hard to fully believe the characters the actors are playing which is hard to truly dive into a film and lose yourself. I think the film is decent at best with good explicit meaning but lacks a depth.

  21. In the beginning of the film, Walter, I believ his name is, walked up to his client’s home and commented that it was one of those mexican(i believe) style homes that had been all the ragea few years back. To me this is seen as collecting uniuqe and/or precious itteams, and when your wealthy or well of you can buy things that are trendy and isn’t exactly a necessity which shows prosperity to some extent. What also pertrays prosperity in this film is the honesty, hardworking and easy going nature of the main character that landed him a seemingly prosperous job. However it is when he throws his virtues aside that he is hown to no longer be prosperous as he will surely lose his job and possibly go to prison without getting the girl or the money.

    I see the dark side of daily life portrayed when Walter confesses
    that he had to plan the perfect crime because he had saw how others failed to do so, and how his boss could spot flaws within a plan. For a long time he wondered how someone could cheat the system. so when the opportunity came, he jumped at it.

  22. Double Indemnity illustrates how lust, greed and the monotony that can occur within a marriage can motivate people to plot a murder. From my perception of the film, the two characters’ relationship is based mainly on lust. At least that is the motivation of the insurance salesman. The woman’s motive is probably based more on her desire to escape a marriage with a man she no longer loves. Then there’s the big motivator: the mighty dollar. When people see dollar signs, they will consider taking a life.

    One thing I like about the film is the over-the-top and overdramatic way the actors deliver their dialogue. That’s definitely my favorite part of films from this era. It adds an element of humor and charm to film.

  23. Throughout the film so far, the characters are all for the most part easily manipulated and are looking to better there lives any way they can. This movie shows American prosperity through the insurance company the main character works at. The insurance company is supposed to think everyone is out to get them and even a lonely house wife who appears to have everything is trying to get hers and even Walter Neff falls for her ploy to murder her husband and reap the benefits. This shows the dark side of American prosperity and has created for an exciting film this far.

  24. You would think that a time of such disparity we would not have to worry about the dark side of life, but we do. The one major thing that has me still a bit confused is that the people in this film are not poor people. They have money and resources. Why did such a violent act take place with people who are already in such good social standing? Another thing to look at is how far will a human being go for love. Walter is a good man, and he has a good job, and an offer to be promoted. This just shows you how wrapped up in love you can be and how bad decisions can be made when you wrap yourself up with someone like that. When it comes to Phyllis we can tell that she is an unhappy person from the beginning. The one thing that I noticed is how easy it is to snap and come up with an elaborate plan to kill, just from the mental abuse one goes through in a day. One of the descriptions of Film Noir describes this style as emphasizing sexual motivations and cynical attitudes. The style is clearly shown in this film and the sexual motivations enhance the end goal the characters are searching for. We can also look at Walter a little more. The idea that man will do anything to get on top most certainly has Walter in its column. He does what he needs to, to make sure that in the end he ends on the top and gets the woman and they money that comes along with it.

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