Sat 28 Jul 2012
WILLIAM LUHR – Raymond Chandler and Film. Frederick Ungar, hardcover/softcover, 1982; bibliography and index, photographs, filmography. Florida State University, trade paperback, 1991.
AL CLARK – Raymond Chandler in Hollywood. Proteus, hardcover/softcover, 1983; index, filmography. Silman-James Press, trade paperback, 1996.
I have paper editions of both these books: the Luhr is a 5-1/2 x 8″ yellowback, the cover sporting a portrait of Chandler set into an oval frame next to a pulp illustration; the Clark is a large-sized 8 x 10-3/4″ book, the cover featuring a brown hat with a revolver resting on the brim.
The Luhr pages are densely packed with text in small type, while the Clark is profusely illustrated with stills, lobbycards and other advertising material for the films. Luhr is an associate professor of English and film at St. Peter’s College, and Al Clark is a Spanish-born publicist and magazine editor who is currently creative director of the Virgin Records group, based in London.
The copy for Clark’s biography is probably written by him and is a tongue-in-cheek view of his life; Luhr’s credentials are presented soberly. The casual reader is likely to assume that Luhr is writing a serious study of Raymond Chandler’s Hollywood career and that Clark has put together an album for the film buff.
In fact, both books are valid contributions to the literature on Chandler’s Hollywood years. Luhr’s approach is largely analytical, a close reading of his films. Clark went to Los Angeles where he interviewed people involved in the films and people who knew Chandler, and his narrative is a mixture of production information and film analysis.
Clark unfortunately only cites his sources in his preface: there are neither notes nor bibliography. He seems more sensitive than Luhr to information furnished by people like Leigh Brackett, but both men communicate their enjoyment of the films and of Chandler’s fictional world, and I would not want to be without either book.
The layout on the Clark book is handsome, and the stills, not the tiny postage stamps one often sees, are generously displayed in an attractive format. I compared the two accounts of The Long Goodbye, and while they are not perfectly congruent they are in general agreement, with, as one would expect, Luhr going into greater detail about the film and Clark more enlightening on the actual production. He incorporates a lengthy interview with Nina Van Pallandt into the chapter, and it is the insight furnished into the making of the film that makes Raymond Chandler in Hollywood a more intimate look at the Raymond Chandler film world.
Vol. 7, No. 2, March-April 1983.