It was after college I discovered Raymond Chandler and his works. It was quite by accident that I stumbled upon his works during my late night drive from Thousand Oaks to my apartment in the valley. A happy accident in that I fumbled, hit the AM button and found KMDY replaying old radio episodes that included “The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe”. I was hooked. I sought out his novels and pulp fiction. Great stories set in LA of the 30’s and 40’s. I loved the wit and visuals of the dialogues.
“If my books had been any worse, I should not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better, I should not have come.”
Our number 3 of the Greatest Dead Angelenos, Raymond Chandler was not born here, but like all of us, chose to make his home here. He arrived in LA with a poetry and journalism background in 1912. He lived in and around the area for nearly the next 40 years, with the exception of a brief stint serving in the Canadian Army during WWI.
Much of what he wrote romanticized the seamy side of LA in the 1930’s and 40’s. He churned out 8 novels, 23 detective stories, 9 non-detective stories and 6 screen plays. Much of done in the film noire genre in Los Angeles locations such as Bay City, Idle Valley and Gray Lake based loosely on Santa Monica, The Valley and Silver Lake.
More on our #3 L.A.’s Greatest Dead Angelenos after the jump.
“Most critical writing is drivel and half of it is dishonest. It is a short cut to oblivion, anyway. Thinking in terms of ideas destroys the power to think in terms of emotions and sensations.”
He was the author that defined the private detective character for generations to follow. Chandler was self taught in the writing of pulp fiction. His essay “The Simple Art of Murder” defines the genre and remains a standard reference in the subject.
I liked his style of writing. He carefully created characters with earthy and natural charms and desires edging on crass but not across the line to outright vulgar. Woven into it was dry humor, wit and dark undertones. The bringing of natural responses and urges added to the realism of his characters. He was, in my opinion, one of the craftiest twisters of words that drew such precise pictures he underscored the emotions of the moment.
“Remember the first rule of gunfighting… “have a gun.””
Chandler is most noted for his “tarnished night” character Phillip Marlowe. Chandler was the first to bring dimension and depth of character to pulp fiction mysteries of the era. As many of his stories were based in LA the first of his pulp fiction was set within LAPD with a character named Officer Sam Delaguerra.
The force at the time was considered corrupt by some, and there was a concern that this good cop being tarnished would further the poor reputation of the LAPD. A new hero, Phillip Marlowe was created. Marlowe was a private detective that could be a good guy and still have faults without tarnishing the reputation of the cities police. Marlowe developed into an unorthodox, mensch at heart, a little tarnished who liked a belt of whiskey, stepping outside the lines “private eye” to get the job done.
“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.”
“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
Women, one can’t forget the women in the stories. They became the benchmark femme fatale. They emasculated Marlowe, tempted, taunted and used him to get their way. They were his downfall at first but in the end he figured them out and solved his case.
His colorful descriptions and sexual innuendo are what set him apart from many others of the period in my not so humble opinion. Ok, I’ll cop to it, I appreciated Marlowe being a horn dog that got distracted him from the task at hand. It made him human, it made him vulnerable and that gave his stories depth of character and some realism.
“The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe” radio ran the fall of 1947 on NBC. Then it was picked up by CBS which ran for a year starting the fall of 1948. I found a few clips including this podcast on Old Time Radios “Radio Detective Stories” you can download HERE. The podcast can be right clicked and saved in a folder and played easily as it is in MP3 format.
YouTube also has a few nice clips from his screenplays. A bit old fashioned they still are enjoyable to watch. The dialogue adds to the visuals playing before you. I actually like the dialogues as they are telling a story without blatant sex nor dropping of the “f-bomb” to get our attention.
And now for the movies, starting with a trailer from “The Big Sleep”
A bit from Murder, My Sweet released in 1944.
And finally a clip from 1951’s “Strangers on a Train”.
Quite an interesting tale of a man born in New York, educated in London before finally choosing LA as his home. The last few years of his life were spent in La Jolla and when he died of pneumonia he was also buried there. An amazing man who added to the greatness of Los Angeles and cemented our place in the history of literary talents.
“She entered and stood there with two 45’s…and a gun”
Ending it all with that final bit is also your mystery in a story of whom I consider to be the best of the pulp fiction mystery authors. Now go review the quotes to decipher which of these quotes are really his and which one is part of a joke that is told in the Chandler style of Phillip Marlowe. No prizes, just satisfaction in getting it right.
Follow this link to all of the L.A.’s Greatest Dead Angelenos.