Film Fatale: DOUBLE INDEMNITY’s Phyllis Dietrichson

Phyllis Dietrichson-291x300Life can be so tough for film noir ladies. They have to be sexy yet (faux) sweet, hard as nails but also (faux) tender, and manipulate every situation so that the man who has fallen into their clutches thinks he is in control. Ready to play the shady lady in your own life? Inspired by Phyllis Dietrichson (played by Barbara Stanwyck) in 1944’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY, this is the How to be a Film Fatale Guide in seven easy steps:

  1. When you first greet a strange man in your house, a man who has come to sell you insurance, wear only a towel and an anklet and appear at the top of the stairs. It will distract him and put him at a disadvantage.
  2. When the strange man comes over again, pretend to call for the maid. Then pretend to realize it’s her day off and feign surprise that the two of you are alone. After all, you’re not that easy.
  3. When you drop hints that you would like to knock off your rich husband and the strange man calls you out on it, insult him. Later, show up at his house with a flimsy excuse like he forgot his hat, his cigarette case, or his socks. After all, these things happen.
  4. As you hatch your scheme, make sure to use a seductive voice that sounds half needy and half sultry. Call the strange man “Walt-uh,” not “Walter.” Stumble into some good film noir lighting, and choose clothes that hug your curves. And don’t smile. No smiles!
  5. After your husband has an unfortunate accident on the late train leaving Glendale, the insurance policy company will bring you in for questioning. Be sure to wear a veil. Nothing is as dramatic and screams “widow in mourning” like a black veil. You’ll gain oodles of sympathy, and it looks good with your blonde hair.
  6. When you meet your lover /accomplice in the grocery store and want to make it look like you are not meeting your lover/accomplice, wear dark shades indoors. Nothing says incognito like dark glasses inside a grocery store while shopping for tomatoes.
  7. When the plan falls apart because of a suspicious insurance claims investigator, know when to cut your losses. Invite your lover/accomplice over in the evening, and be sure to turn off almost all the lights and close the venetian blinds to make some scary shadows. Keep a weapon handy; maybe tuck it under a cushion. And if all else fails, reveal to your lover/accomplice that you were only using them, but just now started loving them 30 seconds ago.

After all, you really do love the guy. Really. You do. Maybe. We think. Or not.


By: Lara Scott and Tracey LaMonica

Hear the CMR review of DOUBLE INDEMNITY: