We may have mentioned our friend's crush on Edward G. Robinson before, but in few movies is he dreamier to her than in "Double Indemnity," with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. The movie is classic noir, with MacMurray and Stanwyck plotting to kill her husband so she and MacMurray can collect the insurance money. The movie was updated and moved to Florida in 1981's "Body Heat." But in the earlier version, Robinson is the hero who unravels the mystery, perhaps a little slowly, but he is greatly saddened at the way things turn out.
This was, in fact, the movie that inspired our friend to go into the insurance business. It also inspired great respect for the director and screenwriter, Billy Wilder, who was able to capture hard-bitten American discourses in spite of the fact he could barely speak English. Clearly, he received some help from James M. Cain, who wrote the book -- and who is at the center of our probate story.
Cain wrote a series of noir novels and has been a cult favorite for decades. The man himself, though, seems to have faded into the background toward the end o f his life, but he did not stop writing. In one of his last interviews, he mentioned that he had a completed manuscript. And then he died.
An avid fan learned of the manuscript and set out to find it. By this time, though, Cain had been dead for more than a decade, as had so many people who had worked with him. The researcher is a writer himself, and he mentioned his quest to his agent. His agent, it turned out, had inherited his business from an old Hollywood agent who had a number of authors as clients. Among them were William Faulkner, noir-favorite Raymond Chandler and -- eureka -- James M. Cain.
The agent dug through old file boxes until he came across the manuscript of "The Cocktail Waitress."
But that was just the beginning.
Source: The Millions, "The Man Who Blew the Dust Off James M. Cain's Lost Last Novel," Bill Morris, Oct. 29, 2012
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