9. Raymond Chandler - The Blue Dahlia (1946)
An immense influence on film noir and the contemporary crime drama, Raymond Chandler is one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.
A heavy, unhappy drinker, prone to depression, he’d been fired in his forties from a career as an oil magnate due to his unreliability. That led him to writing, a career that would almost encourage the abuse of alcohol.
There’s little doubt that Chandler was in some stage of inebriation throughout the whole of his writing career - but one work in particular stands out.
Paramount Pictures’ biggest star, Alan Ladd, was about to be drafted into the army again, and the studio needed a lightning fast turnaround to get a movie written, shot and released in time. Chandler began rapidly converting his work-in-progress novel The Blue Dahlia into a screenplay, the production shooting as he wrote.
There was just one problem. Chandler didn’t know how it was supposed to end, and the film was catching up with him.
In the end, Chandler proposed a novel way of breaking his writer’s block. He would write drunk, from home, with two limousines at his beck and call to ferry pages to the studio and bring booze back to the house. Chandler’s working bender lasted eight full days but the film was completed on time, garnering him the Best Original Screenplay nomination at the following year’s Oscars.
But the question remained: did Chandler risk his health to save the movie? Or did he con Paramount into paying for him to get trawlered at home?