Raymond Chandler was not only one of the truly great American detective writers; the man who was born on this day in 1888 also proved that it is never too late for a career change when, in 1932 at age 44, Chandler lost his job as an oil company executive and decided to become a writer. He’d spend the next 26 years writing mystery books, and giving American literature one of its most iconic characters in the hardboiled private detective Philip Marlowe. And while Chandler is best known as the author of a handful of short stories and the seven novels published during his lifetime, it’s the film adaptations of those novels (six of the seven have been turned into movies) and his other film work that have kept us talking about Chandler long after his death.
Murder, My Sweet (1944)
Based on Chandler’s 1940 book, Farewell, My Lovely, Dick Powell starred in this earliest portrayal of Marlowe on the big screen.
Double Indemnity (1944)
This noir that Chandler co-wrote with Billy Wilder featured a stunning performance by Barbara Stanwyck as one of cinema’s most memorable villains, the murderous Phyllis Dietrichson.
The Big Sleep (1946)
Directed by Howard Hawks and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the 1946 adaptation of Chandler’s 1939 novel of the same name might stand as the most iconic and well-known of all the Chandler adaptations. And as if the combination of Bogie and Bacall wasn’t enough, William Faulkner, Jules Furthman, and Leigh Brackett co-wrote the screenplay. An interesting piece of trivia: Brackett also helped write The Empire Strikes Back, making her the link between Marlowe and Darth Vader.
Lady in the Lake (1947)
For this film, released three years after the book’s publication, actor/director Robert Montgomery wanted to try something different, so he shot the entire movie from the viewpoint of the central character, Marlowe. Results were mixed.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name, Chandler worked on the screenplay for this Hitchcock classic.
In this film based on Chandler’s 1949 novel The Little Sister, James Garner’s portrayal of the iconic character paved the way for an entire new generation of wisecracking mystery solvers on both film and television.
The Long Goodbye (1973)
The Robert Altman-directed 1973 adaptation of The Long Goodbye that stars Elliot Gould as Marlowe earned mixed reviews upon release, but is now considered one of the best of the Chandler adaptations, as well as Gould’s most popular role other than playing Trapper John in Altman’s M*A*S*H.