Raymond Chandler’s Cameo in Double Indemnity

Raymond Chandler Cameo

Walter Neff walks by Chandler

In early 2009, I posted screen captures of Raymond Chandler’s cameo in the Billy Wilder film Double Indemnity on my blog. I was not the first to notice Chandler’s presence in the film–I was acting on a tip from John Billheimer–but I believe I was the first to post stills: pics or it didn’t happen, as they say. The post and the stills in particular were quickly picked up by Adrian Wootton in The Guardian and Lou Lumenick in the New York Post.

I have since taken my blog down, but here is the text from that original post:

You’ve Heard Him Talk, Now See Him Act

In an earlier post, I provided a short recording of Raymond Chandler discussing the role of private eyes in fiction during an interview with Ian Flemming.

Now, thanks to a tip from fellow mystery writer John Billheimer, I’m pleased to present stills from Chandler’s one and only movie appearance.

Puzzled? Confused? Unaware that Chandler appeared in movies?

Well, he did. He had a cameo role in Double Indemnity, a film some consider to be in the top 100 of American movies and others place in the top 10 (tied for third, even).

Chandler’s most important contribution to the movie, of course, was co-writing the screenplay with Billy Wilder, but writer/director Wilder evidently gave Chandler a chance to appear in the film, even though Chandler wrote a memo to studio big-wigs demanding that:

Mr. Wilder was at no time to swish under Mr. Chandler’s nose or point in his direction the thin, leather-handled Malacca cane which Mr. Wilder was in the habit of waving around while they worked. Mr. Wilder was not to give Mr. Chandler orders of an arbitrary or personal nature such as ‘Ray, will you open that window?’ or ‘Ray, will you shut that door, please?’

and Wilder said of Chandler:

He couldn’t structure a picture. He had enough trouble with books. But his dialogue. I put up with a lot of crap because of that. And after a couple of weeks with him and that foul pipe smoke, I managed to cough up a few good lines myself. We kept him on during the shooting, to discuss any dialogue changes.

The scene where Chandler appears comes relatively early in the move, just after Fred MacMurray, as insurance salesmen Walter Neff, leaves the office of Edward G. Robinson playing the character of claims adjuster Barton Keyes. Keyes has just told Neff that “his little man” tells him whenever a claim is crooked and Neff shines him on and then lights his (cheap) cigar with a kitchen match and walks out of the office.

As he exits the office, he goes down a corridor, and there is Chandler waiting outside reading a magazine and smoking a cigarette.