Cast & Crew
Chandler, a bored, aging night watchman in Los Angeles, quits his job in order to revive his private detective business. He is approached by two government agents, Carmady and Bernie Oakman, to find a missing artist named Katherine, the one-time mistress of racketeer Melchior. Katherine, who wants to break free of her criminal ties, is set to testify against Melchior in a major case mounted by the government, and the gangster wants to silence her. She is being pursued by one of Melchior's hit men, in addition to Chandler, who is instantly attracted to her, and after the hit man is found dead, she convinces Chandler that she was not complicit. As their romance intensifies, Katherine and Chandler attempt to elude Melchior's men, with Chandler unaware that the crooked Carmady is using him as a dupe to get to Melchior. Carmady hopes to install one of his own men, a double agent known as Kincaid, in Melchior's place after arranging for the gangster's death. Soon, Melchior is murdered and the evidence, which has been manipulated by Carmady, points to Chandler as the killer. In a confrontation with Kincaid, Chandler is wounded but succeeds in killing the double agent. Although his plan is temporarily disrupted, Carmady is still pleased with the outcome and calmly saunters off as Katherine comforts Chandler.
Frederick Stanley Ii
William B. Gulick
Michael S. Laughlin
Lawrence G. Paull
John Sacret Young
A story of aging, obsolescence and fermenting regret, Chandler found a bankrupted Metro Goldwyn Mayer catering to the vogue in Hollywood for "youth" pictures. Inspired by the success of Easy Rider (1969), Universal invested in untested new talent with Two-Lane Blacktop and Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand (1971, which also featured Warren Oates), while MGM threw some money at Shaft (1971), directed by novelist Gordon Parks (who had only one other feature film to his credit) and Chandler. The script was the work of UCLA postgrads Paul Magwood and John Sacret Young. With first-timer Magwood entrusted with directing, cameras rolled in May of 1971, in downtown Los Angeles (particularly Union Station and Olvera Street) and coastal Monterey. Although Oates and costar Leslie Caron (then the wife of producer Laughlin) got along well, both knew they lacked chemistry. Oates talked the film up in press junkets but confided to friends that it was "a horrible film." MGM senior executive James Aubrey, Jr., smelled trouble and had the film recut, eliminating scenes involving actors Royal Dano and James Sikking (whose names appear in the end credits) and ordering a new score. Magwood and Young retaliated by placing an apology to the public in the Hollywood trade papers for Aubrey's tampering and postproduction was plagued by lawsuits (including one by Caron, for equal billing). Adjudged a loser, Chandler was dumped into play dates on a double bill with Clay Pigeon (1971), starring Telly Savalas. In his review, New York Times critic Roger Greenspun derided Chandler as "incomprehensible...dull nonsense, wholly without delight in its own incongruities."
True, Chandler is no classic but its lack of cinematic grandeur just might be the key to its charm. Predating Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973), the film charts the downward arc of its outcast hero without pandering to the reactionary tastes that made a hit of Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971). Unlike other detective films released that year - Shaft, Klute, The French Connection - Chandler lacks an encompassing visual aesthetic that nonetheless encourages a tighter focus on the performances. Warren Oates was such a raw diamond of an actor that it's great seeing him allowed to occupy the frame without having to serve a movie star. The part allows him moments of gruffness and grace; it was not in the actor's nature to disengage entirely from a performance and there are flashes throughout of his trademark querulous uncertainty.
Surrounding Oates in Chandler is a stellar cast of supporting actors, most notable Gloria Grahame (the In a Lonely Place  star was paid $500 for one day of work), Charles McGraw and Richard Loo. (Sadly, all of these actors would be dead in little more than a decade.) Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet (1977) seems an attempt to re-spin this material into box office gold (which it did, whether the similarities were intentional or not) but Chandler seems influenced at least in part by Mike Hodges' Get Carter (1971), right down to the climactic beach head shootout that lands the protagonist supine in the surf.
Producer: Michael S. Laughlin
Director: Paul Magwood
Screenplay: John Sacret Young; Paul Magwood (story)
Cinematography: Alan Stensvold
Art Direction: Lawrence G. Paull
Music: George Romanis
Film Editing: William B. Gulick, Richard Harris
Cast: Warren Oates (Chandler), Leslie Caron (Katherine Creighton), Alex Dreier (Ross J. Carmady), Mitchell Ryan (Charles 'Chuck' Kincaid), Gordon Pinsent (John Melchior), Charles McGraw (Bernie Oakman), Richard Loo (Leo), Walter Burke (Zeno), Marianne McAndrew (Angel Carter), Scatman Crothers (Smoke), Lal Baum (Waxwell), Charles Shull (Binder Ransin).
by Richard Harland Smith
Warren Oates: A Wild Life by Susan A. Compo
The Oxford History of World Cinema by Geoffrey Nowell Smith
Suicide Blonde: The Life of Gloria Grahame by Vincent Curcio
Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy by Alan K. Rode
The working title of this film was Open Shadow. As noted by contemporary sources, the main character, "Chandler," was named after famed mystery writer Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), the author of numerous novels and screenplays. Chandler was especially well-known for his "hard-boiled" private detective heroes, and according to a May 1971 New York Times article, the filmmakers intended the film to be a tribute both to him and to actor Humphrey Bogart, who starred in the 1946 picture The Big Sleep, based on a Chandler novel.
According to a September 2, 1970 Variety article, Cinema Arts was originally scheduled to produce the picture, with Anjanette Comer to appear in the lead female role. On February 19, 1971, Daily Variety announced that independent producer Michael S. Laughlin had purchased the screenplay. According to contemporary sources, Open Shadow Productions was a joint venture between Laughlin and director-writer Paul Magwood. Contemporary sources noted that the picture was shot on location in Monterey, Carmel, Pebble Beach and Los Angeles, CA.
According to a December 27, 1971 Time article and other contemporary sources, Magwood and Laughlin were infuriated by alleged interference from M-G-M chief executive officer James T. Aubrey. The Time article and Los Angeles Times review reported that on November 30, 1971, Magwood and Laughlin took out a "black-bordered ad" in Hollywood Reporter, in which they "sadly" acknowledged that "all editing, post-production, as well as additional scenes were executed" by Aubrey. The two complained that Aubrey had locked Magwood out of the editing room, then "inserted several minutes of new footage to simplify the plot and replaced their nostalgic score with a trendy one."
Open Season Productions filed suit against M-G-M on December 30, 1971, according to a December 31, 1971 Daily Variety article and other contemporary sources. Laughlin and Magwood alleged that M-G-M had breached the terms of their contract by refusing to allow them to participate in the post-production work and by changing the film's name from Open Shadow to Chandler. In their suit, the pair declared that the film was "defective and inferior" to the work they would have produced if they had been allowed full control over the editing. In addition to requesting more than $7.5 million in damages, the pair asked for an injunction to stop M-G-M from distributing the film.
On January 31, 1972, Daily Variety reported that the injunction against distribution had been denied by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. In rebuttal to Laughlin and Magwood's charges, M-G-M alleged that Laughlin had acted in a "totally unreliable and unprofessional" manner during production, and that he went on vacation while Magwood was supervising editing of the picture. According to the article, M-G-M was dissatisfied with Magwood's first two attempts to edit the picture, and took over the project after it went over budget in late August 1971. The article noted that the November 19, 1971 preview of the picture "bombed," after which the legal wrangling over the final cut intensified. The final outcome of the suit has not been confirmed.
The December 1971 Daily Variety article reported that actress Leslie Caron also filed suit against M-G-M, claiming breach of contract because the studio denied her "equal billing with Warren Oates as co-star above pic's title and in advertising." Her suit requested that all advertisements without her picture and not according her equal billing be withdrawn. The outcome of her suit has not been confirmed.
Chandler marked the only feature film written and directed by Magwood. At the time of production, Caron was married to Laughlin, although they divorced in 1980. According to some modern biographical sources, Caron and Magwood became romantically involved in 2003.
Released in United States 1971
Released in United States 1971