James M. Cain Biography

Name at birth: James Mallahan Cain

James M. Cain is one of the most famous of the hard-boiled fiction writers who came to prominence in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. His place in history is further assured by the film adaptations of three of his novels, classics in film noir: Double Indemnity (1944, starring Barbara Stanwyck), Mildred Pierce (1945, starring Joan Crawford) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946, starring Lana Turner). Raised and educated in Maryland, Cain served in the military in France during World War I, then worked in Baltimore as a journalist and teacher during the 1920s. Between 1932 and 1947 he lived in southern California, writing essays, short stories, novels and screenplays. His unsentimental crime story The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) was a popular success, and Cain followed up with more rough-edged hits, including Serenade (1937), Mildred Pierce (1941) and the serialized Double Indemnity (1942). In 1947 he returned to Maryland and continued writing, but it is generally held that his best work was done before World War II.

Extra credit:

Cain did not write the screenplays to the films The Postman Always Rings Twice or Mildred Pierce... The screenplay for Double Indemnity was written by that other hard-boiled fiction legend, Raymond Chandler... Cain was awarded a Grand Master Award in 1970 by the Mystery Writers of America.

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