Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You've Heard Him Talk, Now See Him Act

In an earlier post, I provided a short recording of Raymond Chandler discussing the role of private eyes in fiction during an interview with Ian Flemming.

Now, thanks to a tip from fellow mystery writer John Billheimer, I'm pleased to present stills from Chandler's one and only movie appearance.

Puzzled? Confused? Unaware that Chandler appeared in movies?

Well, he did. He had a cameo role in Double Indemnity, a film some consider to be in the top 100 of American Movies and others place in the top 10 (tied for third, even).

Chandler's most important contribution to the movie, of course, was co-writing the screenplay with Billy Wilder, but writer/director Wilder evidently gave Chandler a chance to appear in the film, even though Chandler wrote a memo to studio big-wigs demanding that:
Mr. Wilder was at no time to swish under Mr. Chandler's nose or point in his direction the thin, leather-handled Malacca cane which Mr. Wilder was in the habit of waving around while they worked. Mr. Wilder was not to give Mr. Chandler orders of an arbitrary or personal nature such as 'Ray, will you open that window?' or 'Ray, will you shut that door, please?'
and Wilder said of Chandler:
He couldn't structure a picture. He had enough trouble with books. But his dialogue. I put up with a lot of crap because of that. And after a couple of weeks with him and that foul pipe smoke, I managed to cough up a few good lines myself. We kept him on during the shooting, to discuss any dialogue changes.
The scene where Chandler appears comes relatively early in the move, just after Fred MacMurray, as insurance salesmen Walter Neff, leaves the office of Edward G. Robinson playing the character of claims adjuster Barton Keyes. Keyes has just told Neff that "his little man" tells him whenever a claim is crooked and Neff shines him on and then lights his (cheap) cigar with a kitchen match and walks out of the office.

As he exits the office, he goes down a corridor, and there is Chandler waiting outside reading a magazine and smoking a cigarette.

Here's a sequence of stills showing Chandler and MacMurray:


At 3:14 AM, Blogger Juri said...

But what is he reading? Black Mask? Or Dime Detective? Perhaps one of his own stories? (Which, of course, he wasn't writing anymore at that point.)

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Corey Wilde said...

So cool. And after all this time the light has finally dawned on me that the character of Keyes, an insurance investigator in some of the later Remington Steele episodes, was named for Edward G's character in DI.

Sometimes I'm a leetle slow...

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Lonnie Cruse said...

Heheh, great minds and all that . . . my post on Poe's Deadly Daughters (blogspot)today was about falling in love with Chandler's writing. I didn't know about his cameo so I'll have to watch the movie again. Thanks for posting about it.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Picks By Pat said...

I love this movie. Had no idea that Chandler made a cameo appearance. Now I'll have to watch it again.

Double Indemnity has all the great elements of film noir...first class dialogue, greed, romance (or at least, lust) and a fine cast with a great ending.

At 12:22 AM, Blogger waldolydecker said...

I made that little discovery years ago while watching the laserdisc of "Double Indemnity" but could not check it then for technical reasons. On february 15th 2009, after a careful examination on DVD, I concluded that this extra WAS indeed Chandler. Robert Moss confirmed yesterday this little but quite exciting discovery which prompted me to write about it on my (french) blog. He also told me about your own blog. Chandler lovers of the world, unite!

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Kim said...

What a terrific discovery! Seeing those stills, I remember feeling uneasy watching Neff stride by that sour-looking fellow, but I never recognized him as Chandler.

My husband Richard Schave spotted another interesting cameo in the film while researching his Chandler bus tour: not of a person, but of a building. When Neff gives Lola a ride to "Vermont and Franklin," a rather sleepy intersection, he actually lets her off at the far busier corner of Sunset and Western--in front of the very building that housed the Hays Office, which gave the filmmakers such grief as they adapted Cain's dirty little book.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were more secrets hidden in Double....


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