Watch Raymond Chandler’s Long-Unnoticed Cameo in Double Indemnity

Philip Mar­lowe’s cre­ator Ray­mond Chan­dler did not, to put it mild­ly, seek out the lime­light. Any biog­ra­phy of that most assid­u­ous­ly stud­ied noir nov­el­ist can tell you so, but none can tell you that, albeit for less than a minute, Chan­dler appeared in a clas­sic of the sil­ver screen. The books have a good excuse for leav­ing out that strik­ing­ly unchar­ac­ter­is­tic detail: it took cinephiles decades to notices the cameo. “More than 60 years after its release, a French cin­e­ma his­to­ri­an and two US crime-writ­ers almost simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hap­pened on the same bizarre dis­cov­ery — that Ray­mond Chan­dler, uncred­it­ed and pre­vi­ous­ly unno­ticed, has a tiny cameo in Dou­ble Indem­ni­ty,” writes the Guardian’s Adri­an Woot­ton. “On 14 Jan­u­ary, the Amer­i­can mys­tery writer Mark Cog­gins, tipped off by anoth­er writer, John Bill­heimer, post­ed the news on his web­site, Rior­dan’s desk (, while the French jour­nal­ist Olivi­er Eyquem, wrote about on his blog ( on March 30.”

While I per­son­al­ly rec­om­mend using this rev­e­la­tion as an excuse to watch Bil­ly Wilder’s immor­tal James M. Cain adap­ta­tion again in its entire­ty, you can view a clip of Chan­dler’s brief appear­ance in it above, which includes a slow-motion instant replay. “We will prob­a­bly nev­er know whose idea it was it to put Chan­dler in front of the cam­era, or if it took a few drinks to get him in the mood,” writes the Los Ange­les Times’ Car­olyn Kel­logg about this rare cin­e­mat­ic glimpse of the writer who did so much to earn Los Ange­les its place on the pulp-lit map. “And no one has suc­cess­ful­ly deci­phered the cov­er of what he’s read­ing, which would be nice to know too.” Alas, from this footage of lit­tle more than a seat­ed Chan­dler look­ing up from a book, we can expect to derive no seri­ous insights into his life or work; for those, we’ll need to go right back to the biogra­phies.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ray­mond Chan­dler & Ian Flem­ing in Con­ver­sa­tion (1958)

Ray­mond Chan­dler: There’s No Art of the Screen­play in Hol­ly­wood

The Adven­tures of Philip Mar­lowe: The Radio Episodes

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

by | Permalink | Comments (6) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (6)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Julie says:

    Hi, con­grat­u­la­tions on such a great web.
    By the way, do you know that the Amer­i­can writer James Salter is nom­i­nat­ed to 2013 Prince of Asturias Award for Lit­er­a­ture? Philip Roth was award­ed with the same prize in 2012. Please, kinldy give your sup­port sub­mit­ting the attached let­ter:

  • Daniel J. Webster says:

    I don’t think that Ray­mond Chan­dler’s cameo in “Dou­ble Indem­ni­ty” is such a recent dis­cov­ery. If mem­o­ry serves me right, it was men­tioned in Frank McShane’s biog­ra­phy of Chan­dler, which was pub­lished in the 1970’s or ear­ly ’80s. And I know for cer­tain that I was aware of this cameo when I watched the movie more than two decades ago.

  • Elizabeth says:

    This prompt­ed me to peruse about half of The Drown­ing Pool – 133 pages or so – to see how many sim­i­les I could count. (I’m using the Vin­tage Crime Black Lizard edi­tion from May 1996). I count­ed thir­ty four and no doubt missed a few. I haven’t done the leg­work, but I think some of the lat­er books might have a slight­ly high­er ratio. That’s a lot, but in any case I would argue that many of Macdonald’s sim­i­les are so strong that they infi­nite­ly enrich the work. Not only that – they are so strong that they put many “seri­ous” writ­ers of fic­tion to shame.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Here’s a sit­u­a­tion that aris­es con­tin­u­al­ly in the Lew Archer nov­els: some­one Archer is inves­ti­gat­ing is sur­prised to learn how much he knows about them. In Black Mon­ey Kit­ty Hen­dricks voic­es this sur­prise in vir­tu­al­ly those very words –“How do you know so much about me?” Usu­al­ly, though, the knowl­edge Archer has obtained when this ques­tion comes up turns out to be periph­er­al – that is, it doesn’t bear direct­ly on the solu­tion to the case but is just a part of the hope­less­ly tan­gled morass of action and infor­ma­tion Archer is work­ing his way through. In the nov­els that most crit­ics and schol­ars seem to feel com­prise the mature Mac­don­ald style – The Gal­ton Case through The Blue Ham­mer – the read­er is con­stant­ly being thrown off the scent this way.

  • Elizabeth says:

    In study­ing the Lew Archer nov­els of Ross Mac­don­ald I’ve tried to iden­ti­fy cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics, themes, motifs, images – call them what you like – that crop up fre­quent­ly through­out the var­i­ous books. I don’t claim that the fol­low­ing are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant or have any spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance or mean­ing; nor do I say this is a com­pre­hen­sive list.

  • The Memetrix says:

    It’s a mag­a­zine. Field and Stream.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.