Lost Fortnight
by John Houseman

John Houseman - Lost Fortnight

BBC Radio 4: Afternoon Play

Broadcast: Thursday 14th March 1996

"Lost Fortnight" is the true story of what went on behind the scenes in 1945 to save Paramount Studios during the make or break filming of 'The Blue Dahlia', a piece of film noir about a war veteran who finds himself the prime suspect in his wife's murder.

It's the beginning of 1945 as Paramount Studios, already in turmoil, comes to the horrifying realisation that Alan Ladd, Paramount's top star and principal asset (at that time the highest-rated male performer in the U.S.) would be re-entering the Army in three months' time, leaving behind him not one single foot of film for the company to release in his absence. At the next producers' meeting, orders were given that an Alan Ladd vehicle must be ready to go into production within a month (a sheer impossibility). After a luncheon meeting between John Houseman and Raymond Chandler, the impossible soon became possible, but little did they know the cost.

By 1945, most of Raymond Chandler's books had been written and the creative days for the fifty-seven-year-old were almost over, but his great success was just beginning; royalties were coming in and the movies were courting him. Ray appeared at the Paramount studio in Hollywood soon after Houseman arrived there as a novice producer in the early 1940s. Houseman had gone out to California to work with Orson Welles on 'Citizen Kane', but it was at Paramount while Ray was writing the screenplay for 'Double Indemnity' with Billy Wilder that their friendship began; a friendship based on a surprising premise that Chandler and Houseman alone, of all those currently employed at Paramount, were British Public School Men--and, consequently, Gentlemen. It lasted till Ray's death in 1959.

To many, it didn't quite fit. The notion of Raymond Chandler, the creator of Philip Marlowe, the world weary private detective with the dingy one-room office, bad women and a gun, was an ex-Public School boy who spent most of his adolescence in England, educated in the classics at Dulwich College. But that's the way things are in Hollywood where nothing is ever quite what it seems. Besides, to Chandler, Marlowe wasn't just another seedy detective, he was a champion of justice; a man of chivalry and honour. And it was Ray's old-fashion Public School sense of honour which would eventually lead him to take an extraordinary risk on Houseman's behalf. It began, like most things in Hollywood, with a lunch at Lucey's, a restaurant just across the street from the Paramount Studios on Melrose Avenue....

Adapted for radio by Ray Connolly from "Lost Fortnight", a memoir by film producer John Houseman which was first published in the August 1965 issue of 'Harper's Magazine'.

With Peter Barkworth [Raymond Chandler], David Bannerman [John Houseman, the Producer on 'The Blue Dahlia'], Helen Horton [Cissie, Raymond's Wife], John Hartley [George Marshall, the Director on 'The Blue Dahlia'], Shelly Thompson [Sally, the Story Editor], Roger May [Lloyd Parker, a Young Screenwriter], Bob Sherman [Y. Frank Freeman, the Head of Paramount Pictures], Caroline Stong [Kathy, Chandler's Secretary], Tracy Wiles [Sylvia, Houseman's Secretary], and Jane Whittenshaw [Waitress at Lucey's Restaurant].

Directed by Martin Jenkins.

60 minutes.


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