First Nighter: Amusing "Billy & Ray," Affecting "brownsville song (b-side for tray)"

October 21, 2014 4:08 AM

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The Billy & Ray of the vague title Mike Bencivenga gives his play at the Vineyard are Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. By practically sheer accident the two men--and only after director Wilder had a rift with longtime partner Charles Brackett--collaborated in 1943-44 on the screen adaptation of James M. Cain's steamy novel of the same title.

While censor Joseph Breen was breathing down their necks, they focused on making the film version even steamier. It was an aim that film noir fans will cheer them for achieving with innumerable subtleties but not without much friction along the way.

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