Archives for posts with tag: noir films

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VENETIAN BINDS
by Hilary Barta

In darkness this duo’s defined
by light through the slats of a blind
The pair was condemned,
by shadows were hemmed,
the moment insurance was signed.

In blackness the couple’s confined
Like bars in a cell they are lined
They’re not playing straight,
each eying their mate,
awaiting a fate that’s unkind.

Credit: “Venetian Binds”  © 2013 Hilary Barta

Photo: Still from Double Indemnity (1944) directed by Billy Wilder, starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwick.

Editor’s note: You’d have to know the plot of Double Indemnity for this limerick to make sense. Read a synopsis of the film at wikipedia.org.

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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).