Novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago, spent his early years in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, but moved to England after his alcoholic father abandoned the family. Chandler eventually returned to the United States and went on to serve in World War I, after which he became an oil executive, yet ended up losing the high-paying job due to his problematic behavior that included, but was not limited to, alcoholism and suicide attempts. When he was forty-five, his first professional piece of writing, the short story Blackmailers Don't Shoot, was published in the seminal detective magazine Black Mask, but the author’s first novel did not see the light of day until he was fifty. Chandler is considered one of the fathers of hard-boiled fiction, with several of his works being proclaimed masterpieces, whereas Philip Marlowe, the protagonist of his detective novels, easily ranks among the most famous private detectives in fiction. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that Hollywood developed a taste for Chandler’s tough private eye—out of eight Marlowe books, all but one were turned into feature films.

His first novel featuring Philip Marlowe, the complex and critically acclaimed The Big Sleep (1939), got not one, but two cinematic adaptations. The first was Howard Hawks’ 1946 noir of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, with a screenplay written by celebrated author William Faulkner, science fiction writer and “the Queen of the Space Opera” Leigh Brackett and Academy-Award-nominated screenwriter Jules Furthman. Deemed one of the best film noirs there is, The Big Sleep follows Marlowe who gets tasked with finding a blackmailer, but the case ends up being more than he bargained for. The novel’s complicated plot was, allegedly, hard to swallow even for the film’s writers, with Chandler asserting that Hawks contacted him with the intention of finding out who was behind one particular murder—a question the author himself did not know the answer to.

This just comes to show that, for Chandler, characters and atmosphere carried far more weight than plot. The same could be said for Hawks’ film, its main appeal lying in the fantastic dialogue and the palpable chemistry between the two leads. The other adaptation of The Big Sleep was the eponymous 1978 neo-noir helmed by Michael Winner, who also wrote the script. Starring a then-sixty-year-old Robert Mitchum, this movie was fairly different than the 1946 version—not only was it bolder in the content it displayed (e.g., nudity), but it also moved the story from Los Angeles in the 1940s to London in the 1970s. The latter modification did not sit well with critics, who claimed that a fair share of the original atmosphere and context had been lost due to that one tweak.

The second Marlowe novel Farewell, My Lovely, has been turned into three feature films. The Falcon Takes Over (1942), actually the first movie based on a Raymond Chandler novel, had its plot taken from the aforementioned book, but not its characters—the titular Falcon was created by British writer Michael Arlen, whereas the story was set in New York instead of Los Angeles. Critics were nowhere near impressed with Irving Reis’s B movie, but the opposite could be said for the second adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely. Directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Dick Powell, Murder, My Sweet (1944) is one of the first film noirs and also one that had a profound impact on how the genre was molded, thanks to its complicated plot, black and white photography and hard-boiled detective. Not only did critics praise it for remaining true to Chandler’s source material, but Murder, My Sweet also won four Edgar Allan Poe Awards and succeeded at the box office, paving the way for the author’s other novels (such as The Big Sleep) to be made into feature films. And despite never getting any money from the film, due to the fact that he had sold the rights to RKO Radio Pictures for a mere $2,000, the author called it the best adaptation of one of his works and even claimed that Murder, My Sweet was to be thanked for him becoming a best-selling writer.

The third and final version of Farewell, My Lovely is the eponymous 1975 neo-noir helmed by Dick Richards. Robert Mitchum played Marlowe for the first time and, after stepping into the detective’s shoes in The Big Sleep three years later, became the only actor who portrayed the character twice. Farewell, My Lovely was praised by critics, most notably for the performances by Mitchum and actress Sylvia Miles whose eight-minute screentimeresulted in her second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress (the first was for John Schlesinger’s 1969 drama Midnight Cowboy), while the film’s screenwriter David Zelag Goodman got nominated for Best Motion Picture Screenplay at the 1976 Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

After the novel Farewell, My Lovely came The High Window (1942), adapted for the screen in 1942 under the title Time to Kill and then remade five years later as The Brasher Doubloon. The former starred Lloyd Nolan and was filmed as an adventure about fictional detective Michael Shayne, who was created by mystery writer Brett Halliday (a pseudonym of Davis Dresser) during the 1930s, whereas the latter, directed by John Brahm, had George Montgomery play Marlowe and was deemed a more faithful adaptation of Chandler’s book.

The subsequent Marlowe adventure, the 1943 novel The Lady in the Lake, was turned into a 1947 film entitled Lady in the Lake. In his directorial debut, Robert Montgomery, who also starred in the lead role, wanted to translate Chandler’s first-person narration onto the screen, which is why the whole movie was shot from the main character’s point of view. Chandler initially adapted the book himself, but the exceedingly long script was ultimately proclaimed impossible to film, resulting in pulp fiction writer Steve Fisher being brought in in his stead. And even though Chandler was not a fan of the film’s first-person perspective filming technique, critics loved it, proclaiming it both innovative and impressive.

Next in line was the novel The Little Sister (1949), which served as the basis for Paul Bogart’s 1969 neo-noir Marlowe, starring James Garner. With a script written by Academy-Award-winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, who found Chandler’s source material outdated and thus wrote 90% of the dialogue himself, Marlowe is a film that not only had its theme song performed by the pop-rock group Orpheus, but is also remembered as Bruce Lee’s first American movie. The sixth Marlowe novel was The Long Goodbye (1953), on which Robert Altman’s eponymous 1973 neo-noir was based. Leigh Brackett wrote the script and Elliott Gould portrayed a slightly different version of Marlowe than avid Raymond Chandler readers might have come to expect—Altman wanted the tough loner to become a lost loser and even gave him the nickname “Rip Van Marlowe” (an allusion to Rip Van Winkle) due to him behaving as though he were in the 1950s, whereas the film was set twenty years later.

The only Marlowe novel that has never been made into a film is book number seven and the author’s last completed work, called Playback (1958). But that was not the detective’s final adventure—Poodle Springs, although unfinished due to Chandler’s death, was ultimately completed by Robert B. Parker, published in 1989 and adapted into Bob Rafelson’s 1998 HBO neo-noir of the same name, starring James Caan and with a screenplay written by Tom Stoppard. But that will not be the last viewers see of the famous detective. Marlowe, a Neil Jordan movie with Liam Neeson in the titular role, is currently in production. The basis for the William Monahan-penned screenplay is The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel, a book Irish author John Banville wrote in 2014 under Benjamin Black, the pseudonym he published crime fiction as.

Apart from having his novels turned into feature films, Raymond Chandler also penned several adapted scripts and one original screenplay himself. He co-wrote the 1944 psychological noir Double Indemnity with the film’s director Billy Wilder (although the two did not see eye to eye at all), basing it on the eponymous James M. Cain novel (1943). Starring Barbara Stanwyck as a wife accused of killing her husband played by Fred MacMurray, the film went on to receive seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Writing, Screenplay (aka Best Adapted Screenplay), but ended up losing in all categories. It is, nevertheless, considered not only a classic, but also a significant, if not the first, example of film noir. That very same year, Chandler collaborated with Frank Partos on the script for Irving Pichel’s eponymous cinematic version of the best-selling novel And Now Tomorrow (1942) by Rachel Field. Working on the script about a rich deaf woman and a doctor working on a cure for her condition was part of Chandler’s long-term contract with Paramount he signed in the latter part of 1943.

In 1945, the author joined Hagar Wilde in adapting Ethel Lina White’s novel Midnight House (1942) into a film noir called The Unseen, directed by Lewis Allen and in 1951, Chandler got a writing credit for Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith Strangers on a Train. Chandler looked down on the story but agreed to the job nonetheless. The two men did not get along in the slightest which is why the author got fired after finishing the second draft. The director then had Czenzi Ormonde write the script from scratch, using the treatment previously written by Whitfield Cook. Prior to the film’s release, Hitchcock and Chandler agreed that the latter’s name should not be included in the credits, but Warner Bros. disagreed and wanted Chandler credited for reasons of prestige.

Between co-writing The Unseen and starting his tumultuous relationship with the master of suspense, the contentious author produced his only original screenplay. The Blue Dahlia (1946), a story about a veteran (played by Alan Ladd) who becomes the prime suspect in his wife’s murder investigation, is considered one of the most compelling crime dramas of the decade, as well as a top-notch noir. The circumstances around the film’s inception are interesting to say the least, seeing as how it was made with the intent of giving audiences another Alan Ladd film before the star, who had been discharged from the Army, had to go back to serve. This led to production starting without the script being finished. And even though the writing process turned out to be a daunting one for Chandler, his efforts ultimately paid off, seeing as how he received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Koraljka Suton is a member of the Croatian Society of Film Critics and has a master’s degree in German and English. For her thesis, she did a comparative analysis of Spielberg’s ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘The Pacific’. Koraljka trained at a Zagreb-based acting studio for six years and fell in love with Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg’s acting techniques. She is also a contemporary dancer and a Reiki master who believes in the transformative quality of art.