Classic Movie Reviews

Double Indemnity Review

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( Jul 1907 -- Jan 1990 )

Born Ruby Catherine Stevens to working class parents in Brooklyn, she was orphaned at age 4. Her mother was shoved off a street car by a drunk and died of her injuries. Soon after, her father went to work on the Panama Canal and was never seen or heard from again. She and a brother lived with an older sister until the sister became a showgirl. After that she was placed in several foster homes, from which she often ran away. During 1916-17 she traveled with her sister on tour and practiced the sister's routines backstage, planting the show business seed. At 14 she left school to go to work in a department store, followed by a series of jobs she found boring. She never returned to school. In 1923 she auditioned for a chorus line job at a night club and, a few months later, was signed by the Ziegfield Follies as a dancer. After a few years performing in night clubs, she got a part in a stage play in 1926. At this time she changed her name. In 1927 she got a small role in a silent film and in 1929 appeared in her first talkie, launching a long career in film and TV. Her notable performances included Stella Dallas in 1937 and Double Indemnity in 1944. At that time she was the highest paid woman in America. She was adored by the behind-the-camera people at the studio, treating them all with respect and kindness. Director Frank Capra said she would easily win first prize in any popularity contest among film industry workers. By 1957 her film career was in decline and she turned to television, first with The Barbara Stanwyck Show , for which she received an Emmy. Her role on the popular series The Big Valley (another Emmy) was followed by The Thorn Birds (her third Emmy). Altogether, she appeared in 85 films, won two Golden Globes, and Life Achievement Awards from both the American Film Institute and the Screen Actors' Guild. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is ranked by AFI as the 11th greatest female star of all time.



    A classic from the era when Film Noir was the vogue and many fine examples were produced. Insurance salesman Fred MacMurray is drawn by Barbara Stanwyck into a plot to dispose of her husband. He tricks the victim into signing an application for life insurance that will pay "double indemnity" for accidental death. The carefully planned "accident" story begins to unravel under the skeptical eye of claims manager Edward G. Robinson. The plot takes a few twists and turns before justice prevails. Very skillfully scripted, especially the dialogue. Adapted from a novel by James. M. Cain.


1944, Directed by Billy Wilder

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