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Film Comment (1974) - Raymond Chandler: The world you live in




Chandler's movie career was limited, but his influence as screenwriter (especially on DOUBLE INDEMNITY, 1944) and as adapted novelist figured prominently in establishing the tone of the period: the post-war mood of bitterness and black futility, the hero who has lost psychological stability, the stretching against the boundaries of the Production Code. A faithfully filmed version of The Long Goodbye would surely have captured a world that was described best by Chandler in 1945, but which is still our contemporary — a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities, in which hotels and apartment houses and celebrated restaurants are owned by men who made their money out of brothels, in which a screen star can be the finger man for a mob, and the nice man down the hall is a boss of the numbers racket; a world where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket, where the mayor of your town may have condoned murder as an instrument of moneymaking, where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practising; a world where you may witness a holdup in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone, because the hold-up men may have friends with long guns, or the police may not like your testimony, and in any case the shyster for the defense will be allowed to abuse and vilify you in open court, before a jury of selected morons, without any but the most perfunctory interference from a political judge.