Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler Biography

Author, Screenwriter (1888–1959)
Raymond Chandler was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and author known for seminal detective novels like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye.


Born on July 23, 1888, in Chicago, Illinois, Raymond Chandler went on to become a highly successful and influential crime novelist known for such works as The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Goodbye, all of which were made into films. Chandler was also a Hollywood screenwriter, receiving Academy Award nominations for his work on Double Indemnity and The Blue Dahlia. He died in La Jolla, California, on March 26, 1959.

Background and Early Careers

Raymond Chandler was born on July 23, 1888, in Chicago, Illinois. Upon his parents' divorce, he relocated with his mother to South London, England and starting in 1900 attended the Dulwich School, eventually leaving for business studies in France. He became a naturalized British citizen and plied his trade as a journalist before returning to the United States in 1912, settling in Southern California.

After serving in the first World War, Chandler took on a bookkeeping job with an oil company, working his way up to a top position. He also married artist's model Cissy Pascal in 1924.

Novel Debut: 'The Big Sleep'

Chandler lost his job in the early 1930s, and hence returned to his earlier love of writing, crafting stories that would find a home in pulp fiction magazines The Black Mask and Dime Detective.

In 1939, he debuted his popular first novel The Big Sleep, followed by Farewell, My Lovely (1940) and The High Window (1942). His books featured the detective Philip Marlowe, who became an iconic figure of the fictional private investigator genre, with Chandler becoming renowned for his distinctive language, ideas and vision of Los Angeles. He has been compared and contrasted to fellow crime novelist Dashiell Hammett.

Film Adaptations

Chandler's first novel became a classic 1946 film, with Humphrey Bogart portraying Philip Marlowe opposite Lauren Bacall. Farewell, My Lovely was adapted to the big screen in 1944 (renamed Murder, My Sweet) and 1975, with Marlowe played by Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum, respectively. And Chandler's 1953 novel The Long Goodbye was also made into a 1973 movie by director Robert Altman.

Chandler went on to write a total of seven novels in his lifetime, with his later output including The Little Sister (1949) and Playback (1958).

Hollywood Screenwriter

By the 1940s, Chandler was working as a Hollywood screenwriter and collaborated with director Billy Wilder on Double Indemnity (1943), with their screenplay being nominated for an Academy Award. Chandler received a second Oscar nomination for his screenplay for The Blue Dahlia (1946).

Death and Biographies

With his wife's death in 1954, Chandler became deeply depressed and apparently attempted suicide, though his future biographer Frank MacShane also noted the writer expressed an interest in playing the field. Chandler suffered from a variety of health issues and his physical decline was exacerbated by alcohol abuse. He died from bronchial pneumonia on March 26, 1959 in La Jolla, California.

For a longer look at Chandler and his work, there is the 1976 biography The Life of Raymond Chandler, by MacShane, who also helmed 1981's Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler. The 2000s has seen the publication of The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959 (2001) and Judith Freeman's The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved (2007).

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