Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Murder, My Sweet!


One of my local public television stations presented Murder, My Sweet, 1944 film noir effort a few weeks ago and I snapped up the chance to see an adaptation of Raymond Chandler I'd never gotten to before. It adapts Farewell, My Lovely the first Chandler novel I read many years ago now. A few months ago I reviewed a gaggle of Marlowe movie adaptations and now at long last I can say I've seen the first movie to bring the smart-mouthed detective to the big screen. 

Powell as Marlowe
Phillip Marlowe (Dick Powell), a glib and down-on-his-luck detective is contracted by a mountainous thug (Mike Mazurki) to track down his girlfriend from eight years before when he was sent to prison. This triggers a wild cascade of activity which takes nearly the whole story to come into focus as Marlowe encounters beautiful dames, gun-toting thugs, smooth villains, and assorted diligent but noisome cops. He is contracted by another man to ride shotgun on a strange trade in a distant country lane and murder ensues, which embroils the fundamentally honest Marlowe in a scheme which challenges him right down to his core.

Marlowe Meets Mazurki
The plot of the story is a lot of what goes on here and just as in the novel, we often have no real clue as to what is really happening. Marlowe doesn't seem to figure out much before the very end but keeps moving forward for reasons which seem vague. That's the weakest part of this story, the motivations for Marlowe to keep involved seem meager, too meager for him to keep risking his life. I guess we're supposed to think he's doing it for the dames, but that doesn't seem to track with the guy presented here.

Mander, Shirley, and Powell
Dick Powell's Marlowe is a wiseacre for sure and his patter is ongoing and incessant as the story rolls on. I was astonished how much plot had unfolded at the thirty minute mark of this yarn, so there's a lot to hang onto. Great character actors populate this slick film noir effort like Mike Mazurki as the dim but giant and powerful thug, Otto Kruger slithers in as a smooth con-man psychologist, and Miles Mander as an old rich goof is dandy.

Femme Fatale Indeed
 Claire Trevor is the femme fatale and she's good at it as well as Anne Shirley as the seemingly less threatening dutiful daughter.


This one is recommended but hand onto your hat, it's a wild ride.

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4 comments:

  1. I'm sure I saw this movie years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Incidentally, seeing as how we're considering Dick Powell, he played Captain Amos Burke in the TV show's pilot, before Gene Barry did the series. I believe Dick was a singer at some stage in his career, and I always thought he looked a bit like Jim Reeves.

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    1. Dick Powell comes across with a real charm on the big screen, a light touch for Marlowe. Of course later James Garner had a bit of the same thing working.

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  2. And more Dick Powell detective trivia: He was "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" on radio, a really witty and enjoyable series, many episodes written brilliantly by Blake (Pink Panther, Breakfast at Tiffany's etc) Edwards.

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    1. This I did not know. Something to explore. Thanks.

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