The “Double Indemnity” HouseOct 10th, 2011 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
A couple of weekends ago I dragged the Grim Cheaper out to the Beachwood Canyon area of the Hollywood Hills to stalk one of the most famous macabre movie locations of all time – the Spanish-Colonial-Revival-style abode that was featured in Double Indemnity. Incredibly, up until a few weeks ago I had yet to see the 1944 film noir classic, which was directed by Billy Wilder, even though it is largely considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised when I finally did sit down to watch it. Not only did the film not seem dated, but I was absolutely riveted to my chair for the entire 107 minute run time. Sure, some scenes were a bit cheesy – especially the love scenes between Pacific All Risk Insurance Company salesman Walter Neff (aka Fred MacMurray) and disgruntled housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (aka Barbara Stanwyck), not to mention Walter’s silly pronunciation of the word “baby” – but overall the film was incredibly well-done and thoroughly suspenseful, which is shocking being that it was made almost a full seven decades ago. If you have yet to see it, I cannot more highly recommend doing so!
In Double Indemnity, the supposed-Glendale-area hillside abode pictured above is where Phyllis lives with her abusive oilman husband, Mr. Dietrichson (aka Tom Powers), and his daughter, Lola Dietrichson (aka Jean Heather). It is while walking up to the home at the very beginning of the film that Walter Neff utters what is arguably its most famous line. Of the residence, he says, “It was one of those California Spanish houses everyone was nuts about ten or fifteen years ago. This one must have cost somebody about thirty thousand bucks – that is if he ever finished paying for it.” It is at the house that Phyllis and Walter first meet and fall in love. The two later cook up a scheme to purchase an accident insurance policy for Phyllis’ unknowing husband and then murder him to collect on the claim. The “double indemnity” of the title refers to a clause in the policy which stipulates that in the case of certain more unlikely accidents, i.e. a death on a train, the amount of the insurance payout would double.
Amazingly enough, as you can see above, the house has remained virtually unchanged since 1944 when Double Indemnity was filmed. I simply cannot express how cool I think that is!
The only real difference is the garage door, which has since been modernized. Otherwise though, the home looks pretty much exactly the same in person as it did onscreen in all of its black-and-white glory.
The view has obviously changed a bit in the ensuing years, though.
The screenplay for the movie, which was co-written by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder, was based on an 8-part serial written by James M. Cain that was first published in Liberty Magazine in 1936. Cain based his story on the real life 1927 murder of Albert Snyder by his wife Ruth Snyder and her lover Henry Judd Gray, the trial of which Cain had covered while working as a journalist in New York. And amazingly enough, it seems as if the house that wound up being used in the movie was the very same house that Cain had written about in his story. In the book he calls the abode the “House of Death” and, of it, he says, “I drove out to Glendale to put three new truck drivers on a brewery company bond, and then I remembered this renewal over in Hollywoodland. I decided to run over there. That was how I came to this House of Death, that you’ve been reading about in the papers. It didn’t look like a House of Death when I saw it. It was just a Spanish house, like all the rest of them in California, with white walls, red tile roof, and a patio out to one side. It was built cock-eyed. The garage was under the house, the first floor was over that and the rest of it was spilled up the hill any way they could get it in. You climbed some stone steps to the front door, so I parked the car and went up there.” Cain’s words could not be a more perfect description of the residence that appeared in the movie, which leads me to believe that the abode must have served as the inspiration for the home in the story and that Cain then later suggested the place to producers to use for the filming. So incredibly cool!
According to an October 17, 2009 Los Angeles Times article, an almost exact replica of the interior of the house was recreated on a soundstage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood for the filming.
As you can see above, in real life the home’s front door is much closer to the bottom of the central staircase than it was onscreen. The actual residence, which was built in 1927 and boasts 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, and 3,077 square feet of living space, currently belongs to interior designer/set decorator Mae Brunken. You can check out some fabulous photographs of the actual interior of the property here. (The photograph of the home pictured above does not belong to me, but remains the sole property of the Los Angeles Times and photographer Ricardo DeAratanha).
In an interesting twist, as you can see above, producers had the address number of the Double Indemnity house changed from “6301” to “4760” for the filming. I would not have thought that sort of thing happened back in the days before DVD players, pause buttons, and the internet, but all evidence to the contrary.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Double Indemnity house is located at 6301 Quebec Drive in the Beachwood Canyon area of the Hollywood Hills.