Overall, Schickel's short monograph on Wilder's DOUBLE INDEMNITY is a nice piece of work. The information on Wilder's collaboration with the somewhat difficult Raymond Chandler is particularly well researched and well presented. Wilder is, after all, a writer's director, the way that John Ford is a director's director or Sergei Eisenstein, an editor's director. When film critic Andrew Sarris downgraded Wilder in his book THE AMERICAN CINEMA, it is because he could not understand that a director can be an artist while lacking a distinctive visual style. If Wilder's art comes out primarily during the scripting phase of the process, the resulting film can be just as successful -- especially if you have a great veteran like John B. Seitz behind the camera.
And there is no doubt that DOUBLE INDEMNITY is a masterpiece. It is a complex work bringing together Billy Wilder's bemused street smarts, James M. Cain's corrosive venom, and Raymond Chandler's poetic noir dialogue.
My only complaint with this monograph is that Schickel spent very little time on Cain's original novel except to pan it in passing. Granted that Chandler and Wilder improved on the original, the original is still one of the classic noir novels and deserves more than a passing nod.
Secondly, Schickel just mentions in passing an article on screenwriting written by Chandler and doesn't even bother footnoting it. I finally tracked down the article in the second volume of the outstanding Library of America set of Chandler's work (which, by the by, also includes the complete film script for DOUBLE INDEMNITY). Chandler was obviously very down on screenwriting. Like many writers, he assumed that the script was THE key element of the film, and that writers should be treated with greater deference. After reading it, I still think the world of Chandler, but I feel all the more respect for Wilder for how he handled his somewhat cranky associate.