Fred MacMurray walks by Raymond Chandler (?) in Double Indemnity (top); Raymond Chandler lights his pipe (bottom)
In a June 5 piece for The Guardian, Film London Chief Executive Adrian Wootton discusses Raymond Chandler’s purported cameo appearance in Double Indemnity, which Chandler co-adapted with director Billy Wilder from James M. Cain’s novel:
“… More than 60 years after its release, a French cinema historian and two US crime-writers almost simultaneously happened on the same bizarre discovery – that Raymond Chandler, uncredited and previously unnoticed, has a tiny cameo in Double Indemnity. On 14 January, the American mystery writer Mark Coggins, tipped off by another writer, John Billheimer, posted the news on his website, Riordan’s desk, while the French journalist Olivier Eyquem, wrote about on his blog on March 30.”
Does the guy sitting on the bench – sixteen minutes into the film – actually look like Raymond Chandler? Well, sort of – based on the Chandler photos I’ve found online. (According to Wootton’s article, there is no television or film footage featuring Chandler, except for a snippet from a home movie.)
The strange thing about this discovery – fifty years after Chandler’s death – is that no one associated with the film has ever remarked that the author of The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye did a cameo in Billy Wilder’s noir classic, which remains one of the best-known films of the 1940s.
True, Wilder and Chandler reportedly locked horns during the making of Double Indemnity, but there was no reason for the director’s silence decades after Chandler’s death. (Wilder died in 2002).
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, and/or the technical personnel associated with the film could easily come forth with the story years – if not decades – ago. This “conspiracy of silence” doesn’t make much sense.
Could it just be an extra made up to look like Chandler? And that that was in fact Wilder’s intention?