Tabloids, Film Noir, and the Fragmentation of Form and Character in Double Indemnity and The Naked City

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017

Publication Title

Mise-en-scène: The Journal of Film & Visual Narration




This paper is an attempt to examine how the screen adaptation of a first-person narrative in James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity results in the invocation of voice-over narration, which augments the sense of fatalism on the part of the characters and voyeurism on the part of the spectator. Additionally, Cain’s influence by popular tabloids of the late 1920s and early 1930s elucidates connections between the tabloid medium and film noir that have been understudied by scholars. A closer look at the tabloid-photographic work of Weegee (Arthur Fellig) and the noir adaptation of his photo book, Naked City, further illustrates this connection. The transmogrification of both Double Indemnity and The Naked City demonstrates how noir can often be described as a fragmentation of form and character—the medium itself is fragmented by the disassociation between image and sound tracks, a disassociation that mirrors the textual/photographic juxtaposition of tabloid journalism and the issues of verisimilitude that arise from it, and the noir protagonist is fragmented by both his existential dilemma; that is, his inability to remain alive and his inability to establish a connection with the reader/viewer.

Peer Reviewed