The Hardboiled Fiction of Chandler, Cain and Hammett: Pulp Magazines and Film Noir
Explore the gritty world of hardboiled fiction in this article, featuring the works of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett. Discover how their stories published in pulp magazines influenced film noir and portrayed the dark underside of the American dream.
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1. The Hardboiled Fiction of Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain
2. In the 1920s and 1930s, cheap newsprint led to an increase in pulp magazines like The Black Mask. The pulps published detective stories with sensational plots featuring crime, sex, money, blackmail, etc. Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett published fiction in these magazines.
3. Early reflection of alienation and the dark underside of the American dream. Influenced the films that would later be called film noir. Urban settings, including Los Angeles.
4. As we discussed yesterday, theres an ironic resonance in its name: city of angels. An environment full of nondescript modern buildings. City of transitory residents: alienation, lack of sense of community. City of illusions: Hollywoods dream factory. A city of automobiles, with no true central core in the sense of other cities. Ironic contrast between the bright, sunny climate and the dark corruption of the people. Gertrude Stein: There is no there there.
5. Alienated characters confront a world of chaos and corruption in which (they believe) two wrongs can make a right. Theres a sense that crime might just paythis time. Hardboiled: absence of sentimentality or overt moralizing. Stoic or disaffected attitudes complicated by (negative) emotions such as sexual passion, anger, greed, or a desire for revenge.
6. Often a get rich quick approach to the American dream. Success depends not on hard work but on the big scorebeating the system by defrauding its institutions. In Double Indemnity, the insurance industry is the institution.
7. Tries to make sense of the confusion he sees around him and order out of the chaos. Lives by a code of his own but may break the law in doing what he believes is right. Refuses to accept the authority of corrupt institutions (police, wealthy industrialists) and, through his use of wit, is often openly defiant toward and dismissive of them.
8. Sometimes a chivalrous figure (a knight) protective of women and weaker characters. Disillusioned by human nature, since people routinely lie to him, but continues to try to fight injustice. Dashiell Hammett: Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon Raymond Chandler: Philip Marlowe James M. Cain: doesnt use the detective figure as a protagonist in Double Indemnity
9. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure.
10. Background: WWI veteran, journalist, editor, screenwriter. Was the first to use the plot of a wife murdering a husband for the insurance. The Postman Always Rings Twice (19 3 4) Double Indemnity (1936) Mildred Pierce (1941)
11. Background: British, ed. Dulwich College, London; WWI veteran; accountant. Fascinated by American slang and use of language,. The Big Sleep (1939) Farewell, My Lovely (1940) The Lady in the Lake (1943) Screenplay (with Billy Wilder) for Double Indemnity (1944) The Long Goodbye (1953)
12. Screenwriters: Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder; directed by Billy Wilder Chandler, interested in language, added wit and depth to the books dialogue, which even Cain admitted wouldnt play. Wilder, who had been a director in Germany, brought an outsiders view to the depiction of Los Angeles and Cains American story.