|“||We have gone through with it, Walter. The tough part is all behind us. We just have to hold on now and not go soft inside. Stick close together the way we started out...I loved you, Walter, and I hated him. But I wasn't going to do anything about it. Not until I met you. You planned the whole thing. I only wanted him dead.||„|
|~ Phyllis Dietrichson|
Phyllis Dietrichson is the main antagonist in the two film adaptations of James M.Cain's novella Double Indemnity.
In both the novella and films, Phyllis Dietrichson convinces her insurance agent, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) to help her murder her husband. They make it appear that he fell off the back of a train by accident. This is done after they trick him into taking out a life insurance policy with a double indemnity clause, then murder him. The aim is to collect twice as much as normal from the insurance company. When she double-crosses Neff, they get into an argument that ends with him shooting her dead after finally having reailzed that she was using him as a pawn.
Phyllis was so iniquitous that Stanwyck, director Billy Wilder's first choice for the role, was reluctant to take it. Wilder was persistent, Stanwyck relented, and she said thereafter it was one of the best roles she'd ever played.
Phyllis is well-known for her skills at seduction. She plays Walter throughout both the novella in the film by pretending to be in love with him when she was only using him to pull her scam off. Furthermore, she shows little remorse for her actions; even getting upset with Walter for considering turning himself in. Overall, Phyllis shows few redeeming traits throughout the film. She that she would kill anyone and manipulate all for a bit of extra money
- The character was based upon real-life murderer Ruth Snyder. The photo of Snyder's execution in the Sing Sing electric chair, run on the cover of the January 13, 1928, New York Daily News with the one-word headline DEAD!, has been called the most famous news photo of the 1920s.
- It is also heavily implied that she killed her husband's first wife, Lola, as she died under mysterious circumstances while under Phyllis' care.
- The character was ranked as the #8 film villain of the first 100 years of American cinema by the American Film Institute in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains.
- In the novella, the character was named Phyllis Nerdlinger, which was changed by the screenwriters, who thought it too comical.