Archives for posts with tag: Billy Wilder

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PARIS REVIEW
INTERVIEW WITH BILLY WILDER (Excerpts)

In this interview, conducted by James Linville, Billy Wilder discusses collaborating with Raymond Chandler on the script for DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

(Spring 1996, No. 138)

WILDER: Chandler had never been inside a studio. He was writing for one of the hard-boiled serial magazines, The Black Mask—the original pulp fiction—and he’d been stringing tennis rackets to make ends meet. Just before then, James M. Cain had written The Postman Always Rings Twice, and then a similar story, Double Indemnity, which was serialized in three or four installments in the late Liberty magazine.

Paramount bought Double Indemnity, and I was eager to work with Cain, but he was tied up working on a picture at Fox called Western Union. A producer-friend brought me some Chandler stories from The Black Mask. You could see the man had a wonderful eye. I remember two lines from those stories especially: “Nothing is emptier than an empty swimming pool.” The other is when Marlowe goes to Pasadena in the middle of the summer and drops in on a very old man who is sitting in a greenhouse covered in three blankets. He says, “Out of his ears grew hair long enough to catch a moth.” A great eye…but then you don’t know if that will work in pictures because the details in writing have to be photographable.

I said to Joe Sistrom, Let’s give him a try. Chandler came into the studio, and we gave him the Cain story Double Indemnity to read. He came back the next day: I read that story. It’s absolute sh**! He hated Cain because of Cain’s big success with The Postman Always Rings Twice.

He said, Well, I’ll do it anyway. Give me a screenplay so I can familiarize myself with the format. This is Friday. Do you want it a week from Monday?

Holy sh**, we said. We usually took five to six months on a script.

Don’t worry, he said. He had no idea that I was not only the director but was supposed to write it with him.

He came back in ten days with eighty pages of absolute bullsh**. He had some good phrases of dialogue, but they must have given him a script written by someone who wanted to be a director. He’d put in directions for fade-ins, dissolves, all kinds of camera moves to show he’d grasped the technique.

I sat him down and explained we’d have to work together. We always met at nine o’clock, and would quit at about four-thirty. I had to explain a lot to him as we went along, but he was very helpful to me. What we were doing together had real electricity. He was a very, very good writer—but not of scripts.

…Read more of Billy Wilder’s musings on “The Art of Screenwriting” at the PARIS REVIEW.

Photo: Billy Wilder (right) and Raymond Chandler in Wilder’s office at Paramount while writing the screenplay for DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944).

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At the Silver Birch Press blog, one of our favorite topics is noir — novels (anything by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, or Ross MacDonald) and films (especially Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder, with a script by Chandler and Wilder). That’s why we were intrigued when we learned about THE NIGHT GOES ON ALL NIGHT: Noir Inspired Poems, edited by Rick Lupert (Ain’t Got No Press, November 2011) published in conjunction with the Los Angeles Poetry Festival’s “Night and the City” Noir Festival.

The collection features work from 24 poets who, according to the book description, explore “their own noir-de-vivre with humor, grit, nostalgia, and the requisite fedora.” The book includes an introductory note about noir from Los Angeles Poetry Festival director Suzanne Lummis.

CONTRIBUTORS INCLUDE: E. Amato, Michael C. Ford, Michael Cluff, Brendan Constantine, Mike Daily, Gloria Derge, Peggy Dobreer, Jerry Garcia, Joelle Hannah, Kris Huelgas, Elizabeth Iannaci, Jack Bowman, Ruth Nolan, Marc Olmsted, Kevin Patrick Sullivan, Angela Penaredondo, Douglas Richardson, Anthony Seidman, Eric Steineger, Eric Tuazon, Mehnaz Turner, Wyatt Underwood, Wanda VanHoy Smith and Florence Weinberger.

Here is a sampling from the collection…

PANORAMA CITY (Excerpt)
by Brendan Constantine

We started wearing
dark glasses between the house & the garage.
Panorama City had no view; from any window
we saw another window.

ABOUT THE EDITOR: Rick Lupert has been involved in the Los Angeles poetry community since 1990. He served for two years as a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets, a non-profit organization that produces readings and publications out of the San Fernando Valley. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals, including The Los Angeles Times and Chiron Review. He edited A Poet’s Haggadah: Passover through the Eyes of Poets anthology and is the author of thirteen books. Since 1994, he has hosted the long-running Cobalt Cafe reading series in Canoga Park and is regularly featured at venues throughout Southern California. Rick created and maintains the Poetry Super Highway, a major internet resource for poets. (PoetrySuperHighway.com) Currently Rick works as a music teacher and web designer and can be reached by email at Rick@PoetrySuperHighway.com.

Find the 56-page THE NIGHT GOES ON ALL NIGHT: Noir Inspired Poetry at Amazon.com.