FILM Moment: Male Bonding and Double Indemnity (1944)

Sometimes, a great b/w, classic noir/thriller is what you want.

And there are few better than this one: Double Indemnity.

Directed in 1944 by Billy Wilder, screenplay by Raymond Chandler based on a novella written in 1943 by James Cain, with Barbara Stanwick, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson.

I enjoyed watching it, following the over sound narration in its matter-of-fact almost monotone. All the classic elements of the noir are there, and some outstanding example of new filmic narrative.

However, one element stood out for me.  The friendship between Keyes (E.G. Robinson) and  Neff (F. MacMurray): is brilliant, understated, and yet massive in its role. It’s Keyes Neff’s confessing to, and it’s Keyes sitting near Neff and lighting his last cigarette: if it wasn’t for this friendship, Keyes would have solved the insurance case earlier, but he was blind to the culprit, because the culprit was close to him.

In my (unfinished yet) PhD thesis, I argue about themes of homosociality interrupted, and how it’s portrayed on the big and small screen. This is a quite a good example of male bonding as much paramount to the plot as the love story. The male homosocial interaction is camouflaged under horse play, tough love and rough words, and only at the end brought front stage with the utmost subtle intimacy.


I also looked online for a clip  of a speech by Keyes (E.G. Robinson), because it was a magnificent delivery, but couldn’t find it. I give you the text, instead:

KEYES Yeah. In the front office. Come on, you never read an actuarial table in your life. I’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poisons, by fire-arms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by types of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth. Suicide by leaps, subdivided by leaps from high places, under wheels of trains, under wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from steamboats. But Mr. Norton, of all the cases on record there’s not one single case of suicide by leap from the rear end of a moving train. And do you know how fast that train was going at the point where the body was found? Fifteen miles an hour. Now how could anybody jump off a slow moving train like that with any kind of expectation that he would kill himself? No soap, Mr. Norton. We’re sunk, and we’re going to pay through the nose, and you know it. May I have this? [a glass of water in his boss’ hands]

(Find the full script here )


1 Comment

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One response to “FILM Moment: Male Bonding and Double Indemnity (1944)

  1. Pingback: Notes on Double Indemnity (1944) | About Masculinity and PhD Research Interrupted

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