Chandler on film – six to watch

During Classics in September, Crime Fiction Lover took a serious look at classic crime and its celebrated authors. It doesn’t have to be all serious though! Witness some of the films based on Raymond Chandler stories. They run the gamut from serious to silly, but they’re all fun. As a follow-up to our feature on Chandler, why not check out how his work translated to the big screen…

The Big Sleep – 1946
Based on Chandler’s first novel, The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall is considered a classic of film noir. Blackmail, pornography rings, murder, and of course, Bogey and Bacall. ‘Nuff said.

Double Indemnity – 1944
Was Double Indemnity based on a Chandler novel? Actually, no, it wasn’t, but it was his first screenplay, adapted from the James M Cain novel with the same name. It stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyk and Edward G Robinson. Was this story of a man who plots the  murder of his lover’s husband the awesome? Why yes, yes it was. The three stars give the some of the most nuanced performances of their careers and Billy Wilder’s direction is nothing short of flawless. I suppose that explains Wilder and Cain’s Academy Award nominations. If you’ve always been interested in viewing some of the classics but weren’t sure where to start, definitely give Double Indemnity a try.

The Long Goodbye – 1973
Ok, we may get some groans from this one, but director Robert Altman’s take on The Long Goodbye, with Elliot Gould, is one of my favorites. He transports Marlowe firmly into the 70s, and you know what that means: go-go girls and hippies! I’m a huge fan of Elliot Gould and loved his version of the rumpled private eye. Murder was never so droll and Altman constantly walks the sharp line between neo-noir and parody, with highly entertaining results. Love it or hate it, you shouldn’t miss it. Watch the trailer below, and dig that jazz…

Marlowe – 1969
James Garner is sooo much fun as Marlowe in this story about locating a girl’s missing brother. Based on Chandler’s The Little Sister, you also get murder via ice pick, Rita Moreno as a stripper, and, wait for it, a pre-superstar Bruce Lee as a thug with karate skills. Don’t take this one too seriously and you’ll have loads of fun watching it. Here’s a scene on YouTube:

Strangers on a Train – 1951
Starring Robert Walker, Farley Granger and Ruth Roman, this was another one of Chandler’s screenplays and it brought the legendary Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name to the big screen with wonderful results. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it’s the classic story of ‘exchange murder’. You know, “I’ll murder your pain in the rear, and you take care of mine. Perfect!” Yeah, not so much, but it makes for great storytelling! In this telling, a tennis pro feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, and a rich layabout feels smothered by his father. Their chance meeting on a train spurs all kinds of highjinks. Taught and suspenseful, this is a classic.

The Blue Dahlia – 1946
Last on my list, but certainly not least, The Blue Dahlia featured a screenplay by Chandler, and was directed by George Marshall. After Johnny and Helen have a fight, Helen is later found dead. Johnny sets out to prove his innocence and solve the murder of his wife. Veronica Lake is at her sexy best, and the plot moves at lightning speed. Chandler’s screenplay was nominated for an Acadamy Award, and if you’ve seen this excellent film, you can certainly understand why. For your enjoyment, the Paramount trailer for noir classic The Blue Dahlia:

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