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Texas Studies in Literature and Language (2014) - Razing Cain with Chandler And Wilder: The Prometheus-Pandora Myth in "Double Indemnity"




During the eight lucrative but unhappy years Raymond Chandler worked as a Hollywood writer, he wrote or cowrote six screenplays which were made into movies. Surprisingly, he was approached to adapt only one of the Philip Marlowe novels which had made him famous. Chandler's finest screenplay -- coauthored with Billy Wilder -- as an adaptation of James M. Cain's 1936 "roman noir", Double Indemnity (1944), for Paramount Pictures. Chandler's hiring was ironic; it was his first attempt at screenwriting, and he detested Cain's fiction. Chandler's violent distaste for Cain's novels must have sparked something, however, for his work on Double Indemnity far surpassed anything he was to do thereafter as a scenarist. According to biographer Frank MacShane, Paramount next recruited Chandler to polish the dialogue on two plodding scripts for movies now virtually forgotten: a melodrama, And Now Tomorrow (1944), and an obscure mystery, The Unseen (1945). Both projects exasperated Chandler because their directors, Irving Pichel and Lewis Allen, respectively, omitted so much of the dialogue he had carefully crafted.