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I killed him for money, and for a woman. I didn't get the money, and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?
Walter Neff

A 1944 Film Noir, directed by Billy Wilder, written by him and Raymond Chandler, adapted from James M. Cain's earlier novel of the same title. Considered by many to be the definitive Film Noir, and popularizer of many of its tropes.

Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is a successful but bored insurance salesman who encounters Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) when he comes to her house to discuss automobile insurance. After the two have traded some innuendo-laden banter, Phyllis reveals that her marriage is not a particularly happy one and the pair end up conspiring to trick her husband into taking out an accident insurance policy — and ensure that he then meets a tragic "accidental" end.

Neff, who has eleven years' experience in the insurance business, believes that he has the brains to pull off The Perfect Crime. The only obstacle is his colleague and friend Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), the brilliant claims manager who can spot a phony insurance claim a mile away.

The story is told in flashback and narrated by Neff, who is making a confession into his office Dictaphone.

Provides examples of:


 Phyllis: Because you don't want the money anymore even though you could have it because she's made you feel like a heel all of a sudden?


 Phyllis: We're not the same anymore. We did it so we could be together but instead of that it's pulling us apart, isn't it, Walter?

Walter: What are you talking about?

Phyllis: You don't really care whether we see each other or not!

Walter: Shut up, baby. [kisses her]

  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Keyes.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Neff's monologue has to do a lot of the work in getting across how anxious and guilty he feels, owing to Fred MacMurray's manfully restrained (read: Dull Surprise) acting style.
  • Throw It In: The incredibly suspenseful scene in which Phyllis can't get her car to start after dumping Dietrichson's body was a happy accident.
  • Title Drop
  • The Vamp: Phyllis Dietrichson.
  • Villain Protagonist: Neff may be a sap who falls prey to Phyllis' manipulation; but he's also a murderer.
  • What Could Have Been: The original script had two possible endings — the one that ended up in the film, and an alternate ending which continued after that scene to show Neff's execution in the gas chamber. This gas chamber scene was actually filmed, but Wilder ultimately decided not to use it. The Media Watchdogs had objected to the scene as "unduly gruesome"; however, Wilder claimed that his reasons for cutting it were entirely artistic: it was already clear from the preceding scene that Neff was doomed, and actually seeing him die didn't tell the audience anything they didn't already know. The footage of this scene has unfortunately been lost, but some production stills remain.