James M. Cain
|James M. Cain|
|Born||James Mallahan Cain
July 1, 1892
Annapolis, Maryland, United States
|Died||October 27, 1977
University Park, Maryland, United States
James Mallahan Cain (July 1, 1892 – October 27, 1977) was an American author and journalist. Although Cain himself vehemently opposed labeling, he is usually associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction and seen as one of the creators of the roman noir. Several of his crime novels inspired highly successful movies.
Cain was born into an Irish Catholic family in Annapolis, Maryland. The son of a prominent educator and an opera singer, he had inherited a love for music from his mother, but his high hopes of starting a career as a singer himself were thwarted when she told him that his voice was not good enough. The family moved to Chestertown, Maryland, in 1903. In 1910, Cain graduated from Washington College where his father, James W. Cain, served as president. By 1914 Cain had decided to become a writer. He began working as a journalist for the Baltimore American and then the Baltimore Sun.
Upon returning to the United States, he continued working as a journalist, writing editorials for the New York World and a play, a short story, and satirical pieces for American Mercury. He briefly served as the managing editor of The New Yorker, but later focused on screenplays and novels.
Cain made use of his love of music and of the opera in particular in at least three of his novels: Serenade (about an American opera singer who loses his voice and who, after spending part of his life south of the border, re-enters the States illegally with a Mexican prostitute in tow); Mildred Pierce (in which, as part of the subplot, the surviving daughter of a successful businesswoman trains as an opera singer); and Career in C Major (a short semi-comic novel about the unhappy husband of an aspiring opera singer who unexpectedly discovers that he has a better voice than she does). In the novel The Moth, the music is also very present for the main character. Cain's fourth wife, Florence Macbeth, was a retired opera singer.
Although Cain spent many years in Hollywood working on screenplays, his name appears as a screenwriter only in the credits of two films: Stand Up and Fight (1939) and Gypsy Wildcat (1944), for which he is one of three credited screenwriters. For Algiers (1938) and Blockade Cain received an "additional dialogue" credit, and he got story credits for other films.
American Authors' Authority
In 1946, Cain wrote four articles for Screen Writer magazine in which he proposed the creation of an American Authors' Authority to hold writers' copyrights and represent the writers in contract negotiations and court disputes. This idea was dubbed the "Cain plan" in the media. The plan was denounced as Communist by some writers who formed the American Writers Association to oppose it. James T. Farrell was foremost of these writers and the Saturday Review carried a debate between Cain and Farrell in November 1946. Farrell argued that the commercial Hollywood writers would control the market and keep out independents. "This idea is stamped in the crude conceptions of the artist which Mr. Cain holds, the notion that the artist is a kind of idiot who thinks that he is a God, but who has only the defects and none of the virtues of a God.” In his reply, Cain argued that his opponents understood the issue incorrectly as freedom versus control. It is fear of reprisals from publishers, Cain said, that is the real cause of opposition from well-to-do writers.
Cain was married to Mary Clough in 1919. The marriage ended in divorce and he promptly married Elina Sjösted Tyszecka. Although Cain never had any children of his own, he was close to Elina's two children from a prior marriage. However, they did see him dress up as a woman once. In 1944 Cain married film actress Aileen Pringle, but the marriage was a tempestuous union and dissolved in a bitter divorce two years later. Cain married for the fourth time to Florence Macbeth. Their marriage lasted until her death in 1966.
Cain continued writing up to his death at the age of 85. However, the many novels he published from the late 1940s onward never rivaled his earlier financial and popular successes.
(with the dates of the first book publication)
- Our Government (1930)
- The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
- Serenade (1937)
- Mildred Pierce (1941)
- Love's Lovely Counterfeit (1942)
- Career in C Major and Other Stories (1943)
- Double Indemnity (1943) (first published in Liberty Magazine, 1936)
- The Embezzler (1944) (first published as Money and the Woman, Liberty Magazine, 1938)
- Past All Dishonor (1946)
- The Butterfly (1947)
- The Moth (1948)
- Sinful Woman (1948)
- Jealous Woman (1950)
- The Root of His Evil (1951) (also published as Shameless)
- Galatea (1953)
- Mignon (1962)
- The Magician's Wife (1965)
- Rainbow's End (1975)
- The Institute (1976)
- The Baby in the Icebox (1981); short stories
- Cloud Nine (1984)
- The Enchanted Isle (1985)
- The Cocktail Waitress (edited by Charles Ardai, 2012)
The following films were adapted from Cain's novels and stories.
- She Made Her Bed, USA, 1934, directed by Ralph Murphy (story "The Baby in the Icebox")
- Wife, Husband and Friend, USA, 1939, directed by Gregory Ratoff (story "Two Can Sing", also known as "Career in C Major")
- Le Dernier tournant, France, 1939, directed by Pierre Chenal (novel The Postman Always Rings Twice)
- When Tomorrow Comes (The Modern Cinderella in some publicity material), USA, 1939, directed by John M. Stahl (novel The Root of His Evil)
- Ossessione, Italy, 1943, directed by Luchino Visconti (novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, uncredited)
- Double Indemnity, USA, 1944, directed by Billy Wilder
- Gypsy Wildcat, USA, 1944 – an original script
- Mildred Pierce, USA, 1945, directed by Michael Curtiz
- The Postman Always Rings Twice, USA, 1946, directed by Tay Garnett
- Everybody Does It, USA, 1949, directed by Edmund Goulding (story "Two Can Sing", also known as "Career in C Major")
- Slightly Scarlet, USA, 1956, directed by Allan Dwan (novel Love's Lovely Counterfeit)
- Serenade, USA, 1956, directed by Anthony Mann
- Interlude, USA, 1957, directed by Douglas Sirk
- Interlude, USA, 1968, directed by Kevin Billington
- The Postman Always Rings Twice, USA, 1981, directed by Bob Rafelson
- Butterfly, USA, 1982, directed by Matt Cimber
- Girl in the Cadillac, USA, 1995, directed by Lucas Platt (novel The Enchanted Isle)
- Mildred Pierce, USA, 2011, directed by Todd Haynes
- Madden (2011), pp. xix–xx
- Mallory, Mary & Hollywood Heritage, Inc. (2011). Hollywoodland, p. 106. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-7478-3.
- Madden (2011), pp. 24–25
- West, James L. W. (1990). American Authors and the Literary Marketplace Since 1900. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-8122-1330-0.
- Fine, Richard (1992). James M. Cain and the American Authors' Authority. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-74024-7.
- Hoopes, Roy (1982). Cain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0-03-049331-5.
- Madden (2011), p. 141
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (November 2008)|
- Madden, David & Mecholsky, Kristopher (2011). James M. Cain: Hard-Boiled Mythmaker, Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8108-8118-7</ref>
- James M. Cain's collection at the University of Maryland Library
- David Zinsser (Spring-Summer 1978). "James M. Cain, The Art of Fiction No. 69". Paris Review.
- Bibliography and reviews
- "James M. Cain", an essay by William Marling