Creatures of Darkness
Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir
AUTHOR: Phillips, Gene D.
PUBLISHER: University Press of Kentucky
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More than any other writer, Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) is responsible for raising detective stories from the level of pulp fiction to literature. Chandler's hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe set the standard for rough, brooding heroes who managed to maintain a strong sense of moral conviction despite a cruel and indifferent world.
Chandler's seven novels, including The Big Sleep (1939) and The Long Goodbye (1953), with their pessimism and grim realism, had a direct influence on the emergence of film noir. Chandler worked to give his crime novels the flavor of his adopted city, Los Angeles, which was still something of a frontier town, rife with corruption and lawlessness. In addition to novels, Chandler wrote short stories and penned the screenplays for several films, including Double Indemnity (1944) and Strangers on a Train (1951). His work with Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock on these projects was fraught with the difficulties of collaboration between established directors and an author who disliked having to edit his writing on demand.
Creatures of Darkness is the first major biocritical study of Chandler in twenty years. Gene Phillips explores Chandler's unpublished script for Lady in the Lake, examines the process of adaptation of the novel Strangers on a Train, discusses the merits of the unproduced screenplay for Playback, and compares Howard Hawks's director's cut of The Big Sleep with the version shown in theaters. Through interviews he conducted with Wilder, Hitchcock, Hawks, and Edward Dmytryk over the past several decades, Phillips provides deeper insight into Chandler's sometimes difficult personality.
Chandler's wisecracking Marlowe has spawned a thousand imitations. Creatures of Darkness lucidly explains the author's dramatic impact on both the literary and cinematic worlds, demonstrating the immeasurable debt that both detective fiction and the neo-noir films of today owe to Chandler's stark vision.
PUBLICATION DATE: 4/19/2003
CATEGORY: Literary Criticism, Performing Arts