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Archive for August 1st, 2014

 

by John Greco

A dark L.A. night. A reckless speeding car is seen racing through the streets running a red light. When it comes to a screeching stop, a hunched over man gets out and enters the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co. Building. After looking at the row after row of desk after repetitive desk, he goes into his private office. The man is hurt badly. Hunched over, perspiration running down his face, he begins to tell his tale into a Dictaphone. His name is Walter Neff and he is about to make a confession.

James M. Cain based his pulp fiction novella on the true 1927 murder involving Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray. Just like in the Cain story and the Wilder film, Snyder the first woman to be executed in New York, convinces Gray to kill her husband after she took out an insurance policy on him…with a double indemnity clause. The two lovers were quickly caught. The murder became infamous when the New York Daily News published a front page photo of Snyder strapped in an electric chair being executed.

Cain’s story was first serialized in Liberty magazine back in 1935. His first seedy tale, The Postman Always Rings Twice, was a best seller just the year before. Various studios were interested in bringing Postman to the screen. However, by now, the powerful Production Code, headed up by Will Hays, found the material coarse and unacceptable for movie audiences. Postman would eventually make it to the screen in 1946. Similarly, Double Indemnity first met with rejection from Mr. Hays and company. In the 1940’s, Cain’s novella was published in book form with two other Cain stories. Once again the studios became interested. Some eight years after it first appeared in print, Billy Wilder found a way to make it acceptable, along with some loosening of the screws from the Hays office. It turned out to be one of the greatest film noirs of all time. It’s a dark story of greed, self-righteousness, murder and sexual desires gone sour.  A film filled with unlikeable characters. There really is no one the audience can root for. (more…)

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