You usually associate the word “pedigree” with dogs and cats. But pedigree can apply to many other things, including movies.
“Double Indemnity” is an example of pedigree working to the nth degree. The original book is by the great novelist James Cain, the screenplay by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder. Wilder directed the movie, which stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Everybody is operating at the very top of their game.
Which is why movies simply doesn’t get any better than this one. Still and all, in the history of movies, there have been films with a pedigree close to this one – that have vanished for good reason. So let’s call Double Indemnity a product of pedigree – with perhaps a little something extra mixed in.
The real question is – why is this movie from way, way back something modern movie audiences can watch again and again? The short answer: it’s just pure fun. There isn’t a moment Barbara Stanwyck is on screen that you’re not focused on some neat little thing she’s doing. (And yes, Stanwyck herself.)
Edward G. Robinson, who normally played nothing but tough guys, is still a tough guy. Only this time he’s an actuarial accountant in an insurance agency. Nothing against actuarial accountants, but you have to ask yourself – how many movies – or actors – could turn this particular profession into something so incredibly compelling and fun to watch?
Let’s not forget Fred MacMurray. The truly lovable, trusting guy from Disney movies like “The Absent Minded Professor ” and TV’s “My Three Sons ” plays a decent guy who somehow lets himself get rotten as an egg you forgot to refrigerate. MacMurray makes it so real and believable. It’s a seemingly effortless performance that works like gangbusters – even for today’s audiences.
Finally, there’s Billy Wilder. He always made comedies with a dark edge. Think “Stalag 17 “, “Some Like It Hot ” and “The Apartment “. Funny stuff – but full of evil and ugly behavior. Double Indemnity gives us a kind of reverse-Wilder; a dark movie with a comedic edge. In between scenes of murder and treachery, you can’t help but laugh out loud at scenes between Robinson and his weak-kneed boss.
All of which is why, sometimes the right pedigree – and a little something extra – produces a movie like Double Indemnity that stands the test of time – almost daring you to not watch every chance you get!