While “Double Indemnity” was in post-production in the winter of 1943, Paramount signed another contract with Chandler as an in-house screenwriter. That agreement ended with the typed document offered here signed by "Raymond Chandler" and two Paramount executives. Several punch holes from staples in upper left corner.
Raymond Chandler had a love/hate relationship with Hollywood. He felt that the studios looked down on screenwriters and that they did not get their deserved recognition, even though the studios paid them well. He worked with Paramount Pictures from the summer of 1943 through 1946, signing three separate contracts with them, two for 13 weeks each and one for three years, which he did not fulfill. This contract (November 16, 1943 – February 26, 1944) is the second of the three. First an oil company executive and then, at age 44, a detective fiction writer, Raymond Chandler became a screenwriter in 1943 at the age of 55. Though not the first choice of the director, Billy Wilder, he was hired at the suggestion of the film producer, Joseph Sistrom. Wilder had hoped Chandler to be the gritty detective type of his novels, but upon meeting him in 1943, found him to resemble an accountant. Still, he was hired in the summer of 1943, signing a contract with Paramount Pictures to write screenplays for $750 a week for 13 weeks [See “The World of Raymond Chandler: In His Own Words,” by Raymond Chandler]. The first would be “Double Indemnity,”(1944) which became a film noir classic. Wilder was not impressed with Chandler’s work at first so decided they would write screenplays together. [See “Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder,” by Kevin Lally]. All sources agree that they didn’t get along well at all. At one point, Chandler quit, giving Paramount notice of a host of issues suggesting he could no longer work with Wilder, but he went back to work the same day. Wilder stated in an interview with Cameron Crowe, that Chandler was a dilettante. “He did not like the structure of a screenplay… but he could write a beautiful sentence.” He said that Chandler was like Hitler in that he “talked behind my back… quit writing with me and then came back the same day. Because I had told him to close that window, a Venetian blind in the office, and I didn’t say ‘please’.” [Conversation with Wilder by Cameron Crowe in goingtothestory.blcklst by Scott Myers]. Wilder, who had as much difficulty with Chandler as Chandler had with him, nevertheless admired Chandler’s “gift with words” and continued to work with him. Although their relationship was tumultuous, Wilder felt their discord enhanced their work together [See “Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler…,” by Phillips]. Wilder, who knew that Chandler was a recovering alcoholic when they met, felt that he drove Chandler back to drinking. While “Double Indemnity” was in post-production in the winter of 1943, Paramount signed another contract with Chandler, paying him $1,250 a week as an in-house screenwriter. This agreement ended with the document offered here. After “Double Indemnity,” Chandler became a “Dialogue Doctor” for Paramount, “salvaging weak scripts.” In Tom Hiney’s “Raymond Chandler: A Biography,” it is suggested that Chandler enjoyed his time at Paramount. After “Double Indemnity,” this period was less claustrophobic because he was not collaborating with anyone, and it had been grueling working with Wilder. Chandler became well known and liked at Paramount and was “a source of both entertainment and amusement to those around him.” Hiney says he began to enjoy being overpaid and underemployed at Paramount but still saw much of Hollywood as wasteful. When “Double Indemnity” was released in April of 1944, Chandler was apparently already disillusioned with the plight of writers in Hollywood and in November of 1945, published an angry article in the “Atlantic Monthly,” titled “Writers in Hollywood.” In the article, he complained that “Double Indemnity” was nominated for an Academy Award and that he wasn’t even invited to the press preview. Wilder countered, saying that he was invited, but was too drunk to go. Chandler described how the whole Hollywood system took the “art” out of the screenwriting process. He felt that screenwriters were simply paid employees, writing as the producers or other executives saw fit and that Hollywood hated originality. Completion of the film, “The Unseen,” in 1944, written by Chandler and Hagar Wilde, marked the end of Candler’s contract with Paramount. “The Unseen” was released in 1945. But, by the end of 1944, Chandler signed again with Paramount to work on an original screenplay and received $1,000 a week with first refusal rights to whatever was produced. This was a three-year contract calling for two scripts a year. The first original script was “The Blue Dahlia,” (1946). Chandler was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay. Yet, prior to the film’s release and acclaim, in a letter to Charles Morton dated December 18, 1944, Chandler writes, “I have a three year contract… at a vast sum of money… a system like this… produces a class of kept writers without initiative, independence or fighting spirit.” After that, still under contract, he left the studio. Paramount tried to lure him back, but couldn’t. “In January 1946, he was suspended “for… failure… to report to the studio.” Still, they tried to lure him back again. But finally, he left Los Angeles for La Jolla with his wife. In April of 1946 he writes to Erle Stanley Gardner, “I have been trying for six months to get my contract with Paramount torn up…have refused to go to work… We are now making an armistice to be followed by a peace treaty.” Chandler claimed he never enjoyed working on his first film with Wilder. It was a superhuman test of patience to work so closely with someone else as well as to have to make compromises to studios and censors [See Hiney]. And yet, in 1948 he writes to Carl Brandt, “I have only worked at three studios and Paramount was the only one I liked.” In a 1939 letter to George Harmon Coxe, Chandler wrote, “Hollywood is poison to any writer.”.