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"I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at
my feet. I dived in; it had no bottom."- Phillip Marlowe in MURDER, MY
There are plenty of bottomless pools in MURDER, MY SWEET, Edward Dmytryk's outstanding noir. Tapping into a direct line to the dark places of the human psyche, the film raises the curtain on one shadowy scene after another. It leads the viewer on a convoluted trip through a very gloomy and treacherous labyrinth where oily con men, pesky cops, scheming ladies, and at least one gargantuan lovesick Romeo put the down-at-heels private investigator through the wringer.
Moose Malloy's vanished girlfriend (and a tidy retainer) occupies Marlowe at first. Then, when an expensive jade necklace needs retrieving (with another fat fee offered), Marlowe bites again. But suddenly those too deep pools begin to appear.
John Paxton's screenplay has the cast of characters thinking out loud a lot, which helps occasionally. But just as in Raymond Chandler's other overly schematic crime story, THE BIG SLEEP, strict attention must be paid. Yet even if you become confused, you can still revel in Harry J. Wilde's sterling cinematography. (As mentioned in another review, Wilde, along with a slew of other people, including Orson Welles, shot additional scenes for THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS for which he and the others received no credit. As Welles himself intones rather solemnly at that film's conclusion: "Stanley Cortez was the photographer").
The really big draw in MURDER is Dick Powell, not just delivering a career-changing performance (and being the first actor to play Marlowe) but also giving the best interpretation of Marlowe on film- and that includes Bogart's fine outing in Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP(1946), Robert Mitchum's two disappointing films, and Elliot Gould's daring 1973 performance in Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE. Powell projects the detective's weary cynicism and dogged determination without any hint of showy mannerism or overplayed toughness. His presence is completely natural and convincing, far from any Hollywood ham acting.
In addition, MURDER, MY SWEET presents the polished villainy of Otto Kruger, slithering around Powell with his characteristic reptilian menace; Anne Shirley as a spunky good girl who brightens the gloom somewhat; and, on the femme fatale side, the high voltage glare of Claire Trevor, laminated in heavy make-up like a pricey, megawatt doxy. Literally towering over everything is Mike Mazurki's Moose (far more effective than Jack O'Halloran's catatonic trance in Mitchum's FAREWELL, MY LOVELY). Mazurki's silent entrance into Marlowe's office at the beginning sets the uneasy mood where huge, powerful forces stir and then emerge from the darkness.
This is the movie that hooked me on "Film Noir." I first saw this on the
late show while suffering a killer flu. Even through local TV editing and
enough medicine to tranquilize a circus tent, it had me sitting at
from start to finish. It wasn't until several years later that I got to
it uncut on cable that I got the full effect. Having grown up with
hard-boiled private eye archetype, Dick Powell was a complete revelation
me. If you double-bill this with Bogart's "Big Sleep," you see at once
Powell truly IS Phillip Marlowe (even Raymond Chandler thought so), and
Bogart is much better suited to portray Hammet's colder, meaner Sam Spade.
Powell gives Marlowe a vulnerable cynicism as well as a touch of the
"everyman," that Bogart wouldn't be able to pull off until later in his
career. Powell's background in romantic musicals gives him access to a far
deeper emotional range, needed to play the complex and conflicted Marlowe;
his cynicism, his humour, his loyalty to his code...it's all there. Powell
manages to give extra resonance to some of Chandler's throw-away similes!
wonder he claimed this as his favorite role!
The direction by Edward Dmytryk and cinematography by Harry Wild are perfect, giving the film a tight, economical yet alluring vintage "feel". Working on a tight budget, they manage to infuse it with all the seedy, chaotic topography that would serve as the touchstones for every film of this type from "Night of the Hunter" to "Blade Runner." While this isn't the first Noir film, it may well be the best.
This 1944 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, had its
title changed so that audiences wouldn't mistake it for a musical! One might
think that this would mean that the movie was off to a bad start, especially
since the chief reason for the title change was that the actor who was cast
in the hard-boiled lead, Dick Powell, was best known as a singer. As things
turned out, the film was a huge hit and Powell changed his screen image
forever, from crooner to tough guy, and enjoyed an upturn in his career as a
result. Producer Adrian Scott, director Edward Dmytryk and screenwriter John
Paxton also saw their fortunes rise, but in their case the success was
short-lived, as they all suffered during the Hollywood blacklist. As to the
movie itself, it has become for many the definitive film noir. Produced on a
tight budget on the RKO lot, it was made at the right place, the right time,
at the right studio, and with the right people.
This is a movie for night owls, maybe the ultimate night owl movie, since there's scarcely any daylight in it, and when there is, the action moves sensibly indoors almost immediately, as if to avoid the glare of the sun. Night-time L.A. has never looked more seductive than here, with every bar, office, nightclub and bungalow seemingly shrouded in mystery, as if harboring secrets it's loath to reveal. Harry Wild's photography is brilliant, and while he and director Dmytryk often go for flashy, arty effects, they're always appropriate, and seem at all times the way detective Philip Marlow, who narrates the story, would want it to be told, as he's a rather glib fellow with an offbeat sense of humor. The dialogue, much of it lifted from Chandler's novel, is excellent and at times quite funny, though some of the author's best lines (such as his description of Moose Malloy as at at one point being "about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food") are absent.
The plot, concerning the attempt of the aforementioned, hulking giant, Moose Malloy, to find his old girl-friend, having just served a stretch in prison, is convoluted and hard to follow. But the tale matters less than the telling, and the way it's told is what makes the movie so effective. Chandler was not a great one for plots, as one reads his books primarily for the writing, not the stories, and Dmytryk and his associates wisely follow this aesthetic, emphasizing odd bits of business, visual and verbal, often taking the movie in strange directions, making what one normally thinks of secondary aspects of a film the main event. There's a confidence in this approach, every step of the way, as the men behind the cameras knew just what they were doing. My only serious complaint has to do with the way the character of quack psychologist Jules Amthor is written ("I'm a quack"), which ought to have been more subtle, especially with such a sterling actor as Otto Kruger playing the role.
Murder, My Sweet is not without its flaws, but it wholly succeeds where it counts: making nocturnal L.A. and its inhabitants both larger than life and dream-like. The confrontation at the beach-house near the end has a dream logic to it, with Malloy, whom we had almost forgotten about, turning up, rounding out the story with a kind of poetic justice, or rather injustice, that is devastatingly effective. Dick Powell is as far as I'm concerned the best Marlow of all, as he nicely turns his musical comedy slickness into a smart-alecky private eye. That Powell is always "on", in a way that, say, the more sincere Bogart or Ladd wouldn't be, works in the movie's favor, and while I wouldn't say that he sings his lines exactly he delivers them with a singer's precision and sense of timing. Claire Trevor's femme fatale is as good as anything Stanwyck ever did. I like the affected, upper class accent she uses, especially early on. Anne Shirley is okay as her stepdaughter. Mike Mazurki's Moose, who sets the story in motion, is a forbidding figure, turning up when one least expects him, his presence can be felt even when when he isn't there, as he spurs Marlow, and the film, on, like an ugly god.
Private dick Phil Marlowe is hired by a "paltry, foppish man" to
accompany him on a midnight assignation. What follows is a glorious piece
of Chandleriana, a ganglion of a plot involving a jade necklace, a jailbird
who carries a torch for a showgirl, a "big-league blonde" with a rich old
husband and an eye for private eyes, and more narrative twists and turns
than a Restoration comedy on acid.
Will Moose be reunited with Velma? Who's the brunette in the gulch? What is Anthor's precise relationship with Marriott? How many more times can Marlowe get slugged from behind without having his skull disintegrate?
Golden tenor Dick Powell may not be the obvious choice to play Marlowe, but in fact he turns in THE definitive performance. Chandler once defined the ideal hero in one of his essays as a special man, but at the same time a man of the people. Not amazingly bright, subject to bouts of confusion and wrong-headed wilfulness, but for all that a tough, decent, dry-humoured guy who just happens to be as sexy as hell. Powell delivers.
Watch out for a remarkable dream sequence after Marlowe is forcibly injected with heroin (yes, heroin). Expressionist cinema was never as evocative as here!
All in all, the film is an example of a genre captured at its apex - "like lighting a stick of dynamite, and telling it not to go off"!
When I was a lad back in the 1950s I saw one of those Warner Brothers
Busby Berkeley items on television and my father remarked that was Dick
Powell. I thought he was pulling my leg, that sappy tenor singing those
love songs, Dick Powell? I was used to the Powell who hosted Four Star
Playhouse and acted in them every so often.
My reaction was the reverse of what the movie going public must have thought back in 1944 when Murder My Sweet was released. Here was Dick Powell, no make up, a five o'clock shadow, and a voice down an octave and very cynical and jaded as Philip Marlowe.
Raymond Chandler's private detective has been hired by two people, Gargantuan Mike Mazurki to find his missing girl friend and lovely Claire Trevor to locate a stolen jade necklace. The coincidences keep piling up and it's obvious the two cases are related, but how. That you have to watch the movie for.
Powell was some revelation as Philip Marlowe. He considered himself very lucky to finally escape typecasting as so very few in Hollywood do. It would have been nice to have been in the Oscar sweepstakes, but in 1944 no one was going to beat Bing Crosby out that year for Going My Way. Another singer/actor who escaped from musicals and lengthened his career was John Payne. I can't think of any others.
Claire Trevor also broke some casting mold here. Usually she played good time girls, but with a heart of gold. From Stagecoach, Key Largo, Honky Tonk and Man Without a Star, those were usually her type role. Here she's unredeemably bad, but she has a whole lot of men jumping through hoops for her. I don't think she was ever this bad on the screen ever again.
The mores of 1944 dictated that the film not get to specific on certain items. There were references to gay males and lesbians quite explicit that later did appear in Robert Mitchum's version in the 1970s that were exorcised here. But the spirit of Chandler's novel comes through.
I'm not sure Dick Powell is the best Philip Marlowe ever on the big and small screen. But he certainly has his champions and I wouldn't want to take sides in that debate. He's just very very good.
So good in fact that in the 1950s lots of fans were remarking, was he really ever in musicals?
'Murder, My Sweet' is based on Raymond Chandler's classic detective novel 'Farewell, My Lovely'. The book was later filmed in the 1970s under its original title starring Robert Mitchum. The Mitchum version is actually more faithful, but for some reason nowhere near as entertaining. 'Murder, My Sweet' tones down some of the racial and sexual aspects of the original story (which are included in the 1970s remake), and I'm might be mistaken (it's been a while since I read it), but the Anne Shirley character appears to have been created as a potential love interest for Dick Powell. She seems to have been inspired by a similar character in 'Double Indemnity' (written by James M. Cain and filmed the same year with the help of Chandler). Dick Powell was originally a crooner and casting him as Philip Marlowe was a very strange choice at the time, but it certainly works. Personally I would have preferred to see Robert Mitchum playing Marlowe in this version, but by the 1970s he was too old for the part, and comparing the two versions Powell definitely wins. Claire Trevor is also excellent as one of the definitive noir femme fatales, and her scenes with Powell are compelling. The drug sequence is also very memorable. 'Murder, My Sweet' is one of the most entertaining detective thrillers ever made, and along with 'Double Indemnity' and 'Out Of The Past' one of the very best crime movies of the 1940s.
Phillip Marlowe is tired and resting in his office when Moose Malloy
comes to visit him and hire him as a private detective to investigate
his former lover, Velma, who has gone missing in the past 8 years that
Moose has been in jail. Without a great deal of luck early on, Marlowe
takes another case, escorting a Mr Marriott. When Marlowe is knocked
out and Marriott murdered, things begin to get more confusing. With the
police suspecting him of being involved more than he is letting on,
Marlowe investigates further, getting involved in other jobs for
clients who want to find Moose Malloy for some reason. Murder follows
murder as Marlowe finds himself right in the middle of it with only his
link to Moose keeping him alive.
Having recently seen a strange telling of this story in 'The Falcon Takes Over' I decided to go back and see the most famous version. Of course this actually involves going forward in time (the Falcon did it first by almost two years) but it is certainly a step up in quality as this version is much, much better since in the first version it was used as plot fodder within an existing formula. I have not read the book but for me everything works really well here with the right mix of plot, character and atmosphere. As I have admitted before, I'm not the smartest of men on this earth and, as a result, I do get confused by some of this type of film where the twisty plot is not that well explained (The Big Sleep always has me a bit spun) and here at times I was a bit unsure of who was what, but this comes good by the end and is clear with a satisfying ending to the piece. The atmosphere is tough considering the period and is more effective for being built tough on the characters and not by just writing lots of F words into the script. Dmytryk directs really well with the time honoured shadow and use of music, the camera also moves well even if some of the shots look a bit dated (well it has been sixty years this year you know).
The characters are well-written and convincing. Marlowe is a dead beat cool but not so tough and together that it takes away from his status as being a downbeat. Powell is not someone who leaps to mind when I think about the noir genre but he is very good here and gets the character really spot on. Mazurki makes Malloy his own with a firm performance that shows Moose to be strong but also manipulated by the love he totally believes in. Trevor is very good, as are Shirley and Kruger. The dialogue is sharp and tough and all of them do really well with the lines and the characters they have (making them more than pigeon-holed genre clichés) but the film mostly belongs to Powell.
Overall this is a very good film and is miles better than the first filmed version of this story. The film is atmospheric and looks great; the story is not afraid to risk losing the audience and is smart but pulls it all together and didn't lose me totally at any point. The dialogue is tough and quotable and is delivered by a collection of actors giving good performances, headed up by Dick Powell, doing his best to make us think of him first when we think of this story and the character of Marlowe.
One of the early film noir masterpieces! As a major fan of Chandler novels,
some of the lousy filmings (e.g. Marlowe, The Long Goodbye)are of a more
recent vintage. But they had hit the jackpot with this
I do not see how those reviewing this film could fail to appreciate it - they are reviewing a film through a post-2000 prism. Set in 1944, censorship was the rule, even the novel had to be careful. Edward Dymtryk, his cast and crew, with a low budget (which helped create the necessary mood!) have done a sensational job transferring the book to the screen.
And gambling on crooner Dick Powell is akin today to putting Sean Penn in a musical --- to me he met the challenge brilliantly (although I still hear Robert Mitchum when I read Chandler). Wonderful supporting roles, as with the 1941 daddy of them all, The Maltese Falcon. Best of all, Claire Trevor, her voice, her manner, her style. Bravo lady!
Easily 10 of 10.
There were many attempts to recreate on the screen Raymond Chandler's
immortal character, Philip Marlowe, and probably the first serious
effort was in 1944, with Edward Dmytryk directing
The film was called
"Farewell My Lovely" in Britain and "Murder, My Sweet" in the United
The plot, as always with this genre, mattered far less than the characters and the action: it was sparked when Marlowe was hired to find an ex-convict's girl friend This Marlowe was played by Dick Powell He made a daring, successful effort to drop his all-singing, all-dancing image, and he was tough enough; but he was a little too charming, a shade too superficial, to suggest the depths and the strengths of the real Marlowe
Humphrey Bogart was the man to do this above all others And he did it superb1y in Howard Hawks' "The Big Sleep" in 1946
"Murder My Sweet" is a complex thriller which seemed at the time to demonstrate all manner of strikingly new techniques in a film noir mood, and certainly marked an astonishing transformation in its star... Thirty years later, the second half has a jaded look...
This is considered one of the classic film noirs ever made and some
think THE film noir. In recognizing that before I had seen it, perhaps
I was disappointed because I expected more.
What I found was a very confusing film, at least in the last third of the movie as everything started to be explained. It almost got ridiculous in the last 10 minutes when Dick Powell ("Philip Marlowe") explained the whole story. He talked too fast and it was next to impossible to follow. I guess I will have to view this more often to understand it better, or find someone who can explain it for my feeble brain.
The best part of the film was the cinematography, which really comes to life on the DVD. Someone did a very nice job restoring this film. That, and the general dialog by Powell, were fascinating. You could make a short book with all the wise-guy remarks made by "Marlowe" in this film - a lot of great stuff. I just wish they had made a simpler story and made it easier for the viewer to digest all the facts at the end.
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