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 (tinyurl.com/raymondchandler), while the French journalist Olivier Eyquem, wrote about on his blog (tinyurl.com/chandlerfrench) 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.
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.
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: http://jamessalterpremioprincipedeasturias.net23.net/james_salter_contribuir_en.php
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a magazine. Field and Stream.