The Name Is Marlowe

a1I love detective stories.
I started early….

….. when I was about 8,
my Uncle Gerry bought me
the whole set of Hardy Boys

I think he was trying to
divert my attention from
Sgt. Rock comic books…….

Well, anyway, despite my
NOT giving up Sgt. Rock,
I was definitely hooked on those books.

And there was a mess o ’em, too.
Of course, my sister had a
couple of the Nancy Drew books, ……

….. but me-  as a kid –
knew perfectly well that nobody
could go around solving murders
wearing gingham party dresses,
and ankle socks.

It’s just not practical, you know?

Naah… the Hardy Boys-
now, they were detectives.

Them boys had the perfect parents, too…..
…….   they never got punished or yelled at.

Boy, they had it cushy…
just goin’ around solving mysteries ,
…when they weren’t out hitting
home runs or getting A’s in school.

Detecting was one of those exciting
things you could do in your spare time, ya know.

As I got older, I started reading
Raymond Chandler, Ellery Queen,
Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle…..

..and then onto Robert B. Parker,
Mickey Spillane……..
…… Agatha Christie, and PD James.

Of course, my favorite was always Chandler. raymondchandler

Nobody wrote a hard boiled
detective story like Chandler…

Nobody could string two completely
different ideas together in one paragraph..

……. and make it come out as one like Chandler.

Nobody could describe a dame quite like Chandler.

Nobody could put that
down on paper like Chandler:

…. the illuminated dial showed 10:56… as nearly as I could focus on it. The call had come at 10:08 — Marriott had talked for maybe two minutes. Another four had got us out of the house. Time passes very slowly when you’re actually doing something. I mean, you can go through a lot of movements in very few minutes. Is that what I mean? Okay, better men have meant less.
( from “Farewell My Lovely“)

Even a thing as simple as being sapped
became an experience with Chandler…

…. a pool of darkness opened at my feet, and was far, far, deeper than the blackest night. I dived into it. It had no bottom .
( from “Farewell My Lovely“)

So, naturally, I was always interested
in movies featuring Chandler’s main protagonist…

….. an anachronistic, antagonistic,
sarcastic, hardbitten character named Philip Marlowe.

Jeez… I think that description reminds me of someone.

In the movies, while I liked the way
Bogart played Marlowe in the
Big Sleep” okay,  I guess….. a2

although, I have to admit….

I found the Hollywood tendency
to let Marlowe get the girl at the end irritating —

Marlowe isn’t supposed to get the girl

….. he’s supposed to get the bad guy,
and often the girl WAS the bad guy.

But, no…..

they quite inevitably changed
the screenplay around, to take
advantage of that whole Bogey-Bacall thing….

and Lo and Behold, now the bad girl’s
a good girl, and the plot ends up
making no real sense at all.


Bah… just a lot of Hollywood nonsense.

a3Dick Powell did a passable job
of playing Marlowe in “Murder My Sweet” –

…… an amalgam of a plot based
on several Chandler short stories-

—but mostly on “Farewell My Lovely” –

Dick Powell as a sometimes-too-clever-
… only mildly-tough tough guy…

Mike Mazurki made one menacing,
but darkly humorous, bad guy —
….  and Claire Trevor one very dirty little razor girl.

a4Robert Montgomery’s film-noir version of Marlowe,

—made in 1947, with very limited funds–

Lady in the Lake“, was done in an interesting way —

…… many of the scenes were shot as they would have been viewed from the protagonists own eyes…..

Point of View- or P.O.V. as they call it today.

( although it’s used mostly in porn, now….  a5

…….. go figure, huh? )

It is in this scene —
about 1/3 of the way in,

when you first glimpse our hero —
…… (holding his hat ) in the mirror.

Then , they slickly switch perspectives —

……. to the more conventional one
for the remainder of the pic.

You hardly notice the change — very cool.

Critics hated it.

Oh well.

Again, though, Hollywood couldn’t help mangling the story,
…….. until it made it look like 2+2 equaled 7.

a6They mangled Marlowe further—

with a horrible 60’s hipster production
starring Elliott Gould called “The Long Goodbye”….

Now, get this straight, Hollywood –

Philip Marlowe was no slob,

…………….  and he wouldn’t own no damned cat.

Dumb Hollyweird fusters.

They made Marlowe nothing more
than a loser with a bad attitude.

I absolutely detest that movie.

And I hate Ellott Gould for doing it.

a7On the other hand, James Garner
did a pretty good job with
his portrayal in “Marlowe” ….

I liked this movie,

but then, probably only
because I like James Garner.

“Marlowe” was the impetus to Garner
getting a TV detective series of his own —
“The Rockford Files”,

… which I always liked, too, in which he played
a private down-on-the-heels gumshoe
very much like Philip Marlowe.

Speaking of TV……

a8Marlowe was played by an assortment
of actors in a variety of shows,

but I think the guy who best
captured the spirit of Chandler’s
anti-hero on TV was Powers Boothe,
in the 80’s HBO series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Here, in this series,
you got all the nuances of Chandler —

The malevolence of corrupt officials,

The arrogance of the rich and powerful,

The 99% boredom/1% terror nature of police work,

The tenuous balance of good and bad qualities that define a person of character….

The style, panache, and prurience of post-war era Los Angeles …….

This series was produced in cooperation with the BBC, and it shows.

As a matter of fact, the Brits seem to have a special affinity for understanding Chandler.

By far the best film adaptation was done by the Brits —
—– starring Robert Mitchum….
“The Big Sleep”.

It doesnt matter that it’s set not
in 50’s Los Angeles, but in 70’s London — nope.

It’s that good.

Candy Clark looks good enough to eat….

Vera Miles is catty and scheming……..

………  and Robert Mitchum is
as good as Robert Mitchum ever got.

Which is pretty much as strong as death.

Mean, tough, sharp……

He utters the most famous words of Chandler’s “Big Sleep”
in that gravelly voice like he was born to say them ………..

“What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or  in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were  sleeping the big sleep, …… you were not bothered by things like that. Oil  and water were the same as wind and air to you. “

Every time I hear it, it runs shivers up my spine.

And that’s what Chandler was going for.

When Mitchum threw Candy Clark out of his bed,
he did it like a man with character would do it….

…….. and with absolutely no hesitation
in his manner or intonation.

You believed it.

And throwing Candy Clark out of bed
couldn’t have been easy, even acting.



Robert Mitchum says:

mitchum“You know what the average
Robert Mitchum fan is?

He’s full of warts and dandruff
and he’s probably got a hernia too,

But he sees me up there on the screen
and he thinks if that bum can make it,
I can be president.”