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|Also Known As:||Raymond Thornton Chandler||Died:||March 26, 1959|
|Born:||July 23, 1888||Cause of Death:||pneumonia|
|Birth Place:||Chicago, Illinois, USA||Profession:||Misc. Crew ... novelist screenwriter journalist businessman bookkeeper|
though he had been a commercially popular author, even at the time of his death literary academics were unsure as to where Chandler placed in the pantheon of American writers. Was he merely a talented pulp stylist, or an insightful commentator on America who simply used the genre as a medium through which to explore broader themes? One thing was for certain ¿ Hollywood was not done with Raymond Chandler or Philip Marlowe. Shortly before his passing, Chandler had helped promote the first television series based on his work, with actor Philip Carey in the role of "Philip Marlowe" (ABC, 1959-1960). A decade later, Chandler¿s rumpled knight reappeared in the feature film, "Marlowe" (1969), starring James Garner in the title role and boasting a brief appearance by martial arts legend, Bruce Lee. A few years later, iconoclastic director Robert Altman adapted "The Long Goodbye" (1973), with Elliot Gould as a contemporary Marlowe, who Altman directed as a man out of time in 1970s Hollywood. Though reviled by many Chandler purists for the extensive liberties in plot and character taken by screenwriter Leigh Brackett and Altman, the film went on to enjoy a solid reputation as an intelligent satire of the noir genre.
Although a little long in the tooth at this point, classic Hollywood tough guy Robert Mitchum convincingly portrayed the gumshoe in a pair of cinematic interpretations of Chandler¿s early novels. Mitchum first played Marlowe with the appropriately pulpy, period version of "Farewell, My Lovely" (1975), co-starring Charlotte Rampling, Harry Dean Stanton and Jack O¿Halloran as the obsessed, love-struck giant, Moose Malloy. Less successful was the contemporary U.K.-set "The Big Sleep" (1978), in which Mitchum looked more suited to the role of dying patriarch General Sternwood than the private eye. Back on series television, Powers Boothe was perfectly cast as Chandler¿s detective in the critically-acclaimed "Philip Marlowe, Private Eye" (HBO, 1983-86), which made brilliant use of the writer¿s body of short fiction work, first published in the pages of Black Mask and
By Bryce Colemaned script. "The Blue Dahlia," a classic noir starring screen idol Alan Ladd as a returning G.I. wrongly accused of murdering his unfaithful wife, earned Chandler yet another Oscar nomination. Regardless, the writer was more disillusioned with Hollywood than ever before. Having definitively embodied Hammett¿s private eye Sam Spade five years earlier, Humphrey Bogart tried Marlowe on for size in a cinematic rendition of "The Big Sleep" (1946) for director Howard Hawks. Boasting the scripting talents of Leigh Brackett and fellow literary refugee William Faulkner and co-starring Bogart¿s off-screen love, Lauren Bacall, "The Big Sleep" offered Chandler relatively easy money, working as a consultant. The film performed well, but by that time he had had enough.
No longer enamored with Los Angeles in general, Chandler and Cissy moved south to the upscale seaside village of La Jolla in 1946, where, for the most part, he would remain for the rest of his days. Money had long since ceased to be a problem for Chandler and his wife, but the easing of financial concerns did little to reinvigorate him creatively. In addition to other windfalls, he was receiving royalties for a popular radio serial in 1947, which starred actor Van Heflin as the voice of Marlowe. That same year, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adapted "Lady in the Lake" (1947) with a first-person point of view gimmick that literally told the story through the jaded eyes of Marlowe (Robert Montgomery), who was only seen in a few brief shots that showed him reflected in a mirror. Six years after the publication of his last novel, Chandler and Marlowe returned with The Little Sister in 1949. And although the book sold extremely well, it would be considered one of his weakest, least inspired works over the decades that followed.
Struggling to stay off the drink and reignite his passion for his work, Chandler lived a relatively sedate and secluded life with Cissy in their La Jolla home. This meant that in order for director Alfred Hitchcock to retain the writer¿s services on the script for his psychological thriller, "Strangers on a Train" (1951), he was often forced to make the trek south to meet with Chandler. Chandler¿s working relationship with Hitchcock proved even more turbulent than the one with Wilder. At one point Chandler called Hitchcock, "that fat bastard," within the director¿s earshot. Consequently, it was not long before Hitchcock had hired writers to completely rework Chandler¿s initial drafts, leaving little of his work in the final script. Despite the fact that both Hitchcock and Chandler wanted the novelist¿s name taken off the screenplay credits, the studio wanted the name recognition and insisted it remain. Regardless of the rocky road that led to the completed film, "Strangers on a Train" would be considered an undeniable classic of the genre.
Begun before his encounter with Hitchcock, Chandler completed his next novel two years later. His first full-length book not to be cannibalized from earlier short stories, 1953¿s The Long Goodbye was by far Chandler¿s most personal Marlowe tale. Expanding on the social commentary he had touched upon in The Little Sister, the lengthy, meditative novel was a pointed, yet elegant, an indictment of the rich and the detrimental effects of wealth on the country and its less privileged classes. As the title implied,The Long Goodbye also served as a melancholy rumination on a life, not always well-lived, as it neared its final act. The book ¿ which later won an Edgar Award and was considered by many literary scholars to be the author¿s very best work ¿ sold exceptionally well upon publication, but for Chandler, there was little to celebrate. For years his elderly wife, Cissy, had been suffering a rapid decline in health and had been virtually bed-ridden throughout his writing of The Long Goodbye. In December of 1954, Cissy Chandler died at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla from what was described as fibrosis of the lungs. She was 84 years old.
Without his wife of 30 years, Chandler was utterly distraught. He began drinking once again, more heavily than ever before, and sank deeper and deeper into depression. Things came to head when he attempted what was deemed a botched suicide attempt in 1955. In spite of his steadily declining physical and emotional condition, Chandler grew close to a number of women ¿ all of them far younger than he ¿ in the years that followed Cissy¿s death. One of them was Helen Greene, Chandler¿s international representative and close friend who he later became engaged to after they spent time together during an extended tour in London. Although his excessive drinking continued unabated, Chandler somehow managed to complete another novel. Reworked from an unproduced screenplay he had written a decade earlier, Playback, published in 1958, was a far cry from the soul-searching triumph of his previous effort. The following year, he began work on another novel, titled Poodle Springs. Although Chandler only finished the first four chapters, the book would be completed three decades later by poplar crime novelist and Chandler devotee, Robert B. Parker. Chandler died in La Jolla on March 23, 1959 due to the effects of pneumonia ¿ a condition clearly brought on by his drinking and general self-neglect. It was both sad and telling that a mere 17 people attended his modest funeral service. Author Raymond Chandler was dead at the age of 70.
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