Raymond Chandler Dies

March 26, 1959

Posted by FocusFeatures.com | March 26, 2009

The master of noir sleeps the big sleep.

50 years ago today, the life of one of the great figures in American literature and film reached its final page with the passing of Raymond Chandler. The hardboiled novelist of detective fiction, who was born in Chicago in 1888, only started writing in his mid-forties and it was 1939 before his debut novel, The Big Sleep, was published. Chandler was following in the footsteps of the more accomplished and literary pulp writers, particularly Dashiell Hammett, however Chandler’s first book raised the bar in terms of the quality of writing in detective fiction. He was also instantly attractive to Hollywood, and all of his novels (with the exception of Playback)—plus a number of his short stories—have been adapted for the screen, the most famous being Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946) and Robert Altman’s alternative take on The Long Goodbye (1973). Chandler also supplemented his writer’s income by taking on screenwriting gigs from Hollywood, with the most notable examples of this being two classics of the noir and thriller genres from the time, Billy Wilder’s 1944 Double Indemnity (adapted from James M. Cain’s novel) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel). Towards the end of his life, he was sadly reduced to writing for TV shows like "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars" and "77 Sunset Strip" to make ends meet. He died of pneumonia in La Jolla, California, in 1959, five years after the death of his beloved wife, Cissy.

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