Getting permission to make “Double Indemnity” may have been an uphill battle, but director Billy Wilder was determined to see his vision fully realized. Stanwyck was her first choice for the role of Phyllis, a housewife who convinces an insurance agent to murder her husband and get his money back. According to Stanwyck herself in author Kevin Lally’s historical account”Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder“, the exchange between her and the director went as follows:
“I said, ‘I love the script and I love you, but I’m a little scared after all these years of playing heroines of becoming an outright killer.’ And Mr. Wilder – and rightly so – looked at me and he said, ‘Well, are you a mouse or an actress?’ And I said, ‘Well, I hope I’m an actress .’ He said ‘Then do the part.’ And I did and I’m very grateful to him.”
Film historian Eddie Muller explains in an interview with NPR that, despite the film’s difficulties in making it to the screen, Stanwyck’s starring in “Double Indemnity” was a major milestone for film noir and helped to evolve the moral complexity of American cinema. After years of playing moral paragons and fun romantic comedies, Barabara Stanwyck has added the role of femme fatale to her many faces.