Hollywood Stories

Hollywood Stories

The image is of two movie tickets sticking out from a pile of popcorn. The image accompanies a blog post about how life insurance fraud is portrayed in movies

5 Movies to Die For: Life Insurance Scams on Film

Insurance fraud isn’t sexy. Or is it? Okay, insurance fraud isn’t funny. Or IS it?

The following five films use life insurance to drive the plot in a couple of dark, steamy, and hilariously creative ways. And we highly recommend you check them out if quarantine has you running dry on new things to stream.

Just don’t get any ideas.

Steamy Scams

Cinematic sex sizzles. So, let’s start there.

Double Indemnity, 1944

If you like Casablanca-esque dialogue then you’ll relish Double Indemnity starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyk and Edward G. Robinson – three powerhouse Hollywood stars back in its Golden Age.

Murray plays Walter Neff, an insurance rep who figures he’s got it all figured out when he knocks on the Dietrichson’s door one day in May for a simple renewal inquiry. But it’s not Mr. Dietrichson who answers. It’s his wife, a buxom blonde with an itch to scratch. And it’s not romance she’s after. It’s her husband.

The movie’s steamy scenes are tame compared to today’s but the film noir mood this black-and-white film sets sizzles, nonetheless.

The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1981

Forty years later, people still debate if the iconic kitchen scene Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange pull off in The Postman Always Rings Twice is real or staged.

If it was real, the movie would never make it to mainstream theater screens, obviously. So perhaps that’s why Mussolini banned a 1943 Italian version titled Ossessione.

Funny Fraud

It takes some strong funny men to make light of a topic as dry as life insurance. But they did so. Brilliantly.

Alias Jessie James, 1959

Few careers in the 20th century are as iconic as Bob Hope’s. And this Wild West comedy co-starring Rhonda Fleming shows off his comedic timing to a tee.

Milford Farnsworth (played by Hope) unwittingly sells—and then tries to get back—a six-figure life insurance policy from the infamous Jesse James.

The romp that follows is worth the watch for those with a classic sense of humor.

Fletch, 1985

You may know Chevy Chase from the early 2000’s television series Community, but before that, the Saturday Night Live original cast alum appeared in a bunch of movies playing a string of hapless characters with clever panache.

The film Fletch gives Chase plenty of opportunities to perform plethora character sketches as undercover reporter Irwin M. Fletcher. The basic plot is familiar by now—a man offers a fortune to end his woes by asking Fletcher to kill him.

We won’t blow the ending’s cover. Just sit back and enjoy Chase’s brilliant comedy.

Dark & Dastardly

Fraud taken at face value isn’t entertaining. But it is intriguing. So is this movie.

Strange Bargain, 1949

Strange Bargain features two down-on-their-luck men, business owner Malcolm Jarvis Richard Gaines  and his employee Sam Wilson Jeffrey Lynn, and their plan to make Jarvis’s suicide look like a murder so Jarvis’ family can survive off the insurance money. Wilson waffles but is drawn in by circumstances beyond his control.

Fun fact: Lynn also appeared in Double Indemnity.

Contemplating life insurance is heavy. Shopping for life insurance is daunting. But watching other people tangle with fraud is delicious. So, grab a bowl of popcorn and let life insurance be fun for a change.

Nick Trawinski

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