Double Indemnity and the Rise of Film Noir

Being there . . . . in the warm quite privacy of your own home for a good, solid, useful read on
the “quintessence of the Noir Style in the creation of a feature-length motion picture”. Fun for
sure, but tougher than chewing on a handful of nails or a tour of Hades, the gloomy
subterranean realm of departed spirits. Yet, two extraordinary screenwriter producer-film
historians, Alain Silver and James Ursini, each a nonpareil in his own “quinta essential”, or fifth
essence of a thing (here, the motion picture) in its most concentrated form”. Thanks, Merriam-
Webster. In the book you’re coddling, “From the Moment They Met It Was Murder – – DOUBLE
INDEMNITY and the Rise of Film Noir”, you not only have a useful reference on what it mean to
be “noir”, but also if you wish to broaden your base for an intelligent appraisal of the moral and
educational aspects of good films. By selecting “Double Indemnity to provide their wealth of
interpretative and analytic information on the definition eand structure of noir and its movie-
making techniques, the two brilliants teach that the best of noir, like the best of good books,
guide us how it is to be human rather than criminal.
“From the Moment They Met It Was Murder – – DOUBLE INDEMNITY AND THE RISE OF FILM
NOIR”, by Alain Silver and James Ursini. Running Press, Philadelphia, Hachette Book Group:
2024, 340 pages, hardcover, 6 ¼” x 9 ¼”, $30. Visit,, or,
Reviewed and highly recommended by Don DeNevi
This splendid book offers readers, whether deadly serious cinema buffs or “How about a
movie tonight?” novices the remarkable, out of the common order, opportunity to see what
goes on behind the scenes of filming the classic noir, “Double Indemnity”. For the first time, co-
authors Alain Silver and James Ursini recreate what it was like. They write in a subchapter,” The
Rise of Film Noir, 1944-1955”, “We cannot overstate the influence of ‘Double Indemnity’ on the
film noir movement. Before 1944 there was a trickle of titles. After, there was a flood. Between
1944 and 1955 (often marked as the year when the tide of noir films began to ebb), film noir
dominated the slates of both low-budget production companies, i.e., PRC, Republic, and major
studios Paramount and 20 th Century-Fox.” The two co-authors add, “. . . How extensive was the
noir movement over 25 years? The 4 th Edition of our ‘Film Noir The Encyclopedia resulted in
over 400 titles. Then add another 200 more in the lists of the Internet Movie Database and
Wikipedia. Obviously, the themes, motifs, and characters so vividly realized in ‘Double
Indemnity’ influenced so many more as the years rolled on.”
So, exactly how does a novice define “noir”? How was “Double Indemnity” often used? In
“The Perfect Crime”, noir crossed over into many branches – – the fatalistic nightmare, male
violence, women, the private eye, corruption, all commingling with darkness, night. Noir is the
antithesis of dazzling sunlight, fantastic fact, and frenzied romantic fiction. It is surely not a
colorful tapestry of colorful carnival tumult, excitement, blazing costumes, blood-pulsating song
and dance. In noir, night is better than day. It’s meant for the drama of crime, from the early
1940s until the earliest months of the 1960s. It’s documentary-like, usually focusing on murder.
And to solve the murderer’s identity, the camera covers all terrains, landscapes, introducing the
friendly and deadly participants. In storyline and style of visualization, noir was, and, to some
extent, continues to be a pleasant surprise in the side of the traditional well told story easy-on
the-eyes too watch.

“Double Indemnity” became one of the earliest studio noirs to gain critical and commercial
success, including being nominated for seven Oscars. It powerfully influenced the massive noir
movement, launching a large group of copycats, and, for us yearning for gossip, hearing details
how it affected the later careers of all its cast and crew. “Double Indemnity’s” ,impact on
filmmakers and audiences is still felt eight decades after its release, insist heroes of cinema
history, Alain Silver and James Ursini.
“The definitive noir film deserves a definitive book about its inspirations, creation, and
influence, and Silver and Ursini deliver the goods.”
Eddie Muller, host of Turner Classic Movies’ “Noir Alley”

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