Murder, My Sweet (1944) Poster

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Film Noir 101
subzero60064 April 2004
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 attention from start to finish. It wasn't until several years later that I got to see it uncut on cable that I got the full effect. Having grown up with Bogart's hard-boiled private eye archetype, Dick Powell was a complete revelation to me. If you double-bill this with Bogart's "Big Sleep," you see at once that 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's all there. Powell manages to give extra resonance to some of Chandler's throw-away similes! No 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.
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The Screen's Best Marlowe
Arriflex122 July 2004
"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 SWEET.

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.
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One of the most entertaining Detective thrillers ever made.
Infofreak31 July 2003
'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.
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The Definitive Chandler
telegonus10 May 2002
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.
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"I Don't Know Which Side Anybody's On!"
stryker-530 December 2001
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"!
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That couldn't be the same fellow
bkoganbing5 September 2005
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?
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Brilliant Filming of Raymond Chandler
felixoscar25 April 2004
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 one.

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.
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The jade necklace
jotix10019 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Raymond Chandler's novels made great film adaptations based on his strongly written characters. Point in case, Philip Marlowe. He was a practical P.I. man. In the adaptation of the novel "Farewell, My Lovely", by John Paxton, Marlowe gets a great treatment from Mr. Paxton and the director, Edward Dmytryk.

This 1944 film has been dissected by a lot of contributors to this forum. As it happens with films of this genre, the convoluted plots create an aura of mystery without sometimes making too much sense, but the viewer is hooked from the start. One goes along for the ride with this version that proves to be one of the best adaptations of the Chandler novel, something the other version didn't have.

The film works because of the presence of Dick Powell. He was a good actor who came from a different world into playing Marlowe. Mr. Powell is the glue that holds all the action together. He doesn't make us believe he is a super hero, he is just a regular man on a mission for solving the mystery of Velma's disappearance for his client, Moose Malloy, but he gets side tracked by circumstances that bring him back to Velma, after being hit and doped by the people that don't want him to get to the truth.

Claire Trevor contributed to the success of the film with her duplicitous Helen, who we realize is holding out on us. Anne Shirley, who plays Ann Grayle, is of two minds, while hating her attractive step mother, Helen, she will do anything to separate her from the father she adores. Mike Mazurki is the burly Moose Malloy. Otto Kruger and Don Walton have important moments among the supporting cast.

"Murder My Sweet" was given a great look by Harry Wild. His impression of Los Angeles, at night, and the interesting camera angles he photographed, are what distinguishes this film and makes it a classic. The atmospheric music is by Ray Webb. Director Edward Dmytryk showed he was inspired in this production that remains a must see for all fans of the genre.
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You're not a detective, you're a slot machine. You'd slit your own throat for 6 bits plus tax.
Produced by the legendary RKO during the golden age of American film noir, Murder, My Sweet remains to this day one of the best adaptations of the adventures of Philip Marlowe.

The mythical antihero Raymond Chandler had a slew of excellent adaptations to the big screen including The Big Sleep by Howard Hawks and The Private by Robert Altman. Philip Marlowe has inspired dozens of imitators and one can still find his DNA in the chronic darkness of James Ellroy.

Everything is there: the smoky bars populated by exotic dancers, the femme fatale, the weary detective who is constantly beaten up after his hilarious escapades, etc. To this Dmytryk adds a few original touches straight out of German Expressionism.

Humphrey Bogart will overshadow him a few years later, but Dick Powell portrays a Philip Marlowe deeply funny, always ready to deliver a good line. A memorable performance, although the actor did not necessarily look the part. Powell is accompanied by excellent supporting characters, including two femmes fatales Claire Trevor and Anne Shirley. In the role "Moose" Malloy, Mike Mazurki intimidates while managing to remain touching. As for Otto Kruger, he plays a deliciously evil villain. Scripted by John Paxton, the film is somewhat watered down compared to the Chandler novel, he nevertheless manages to bring out the very substance without too many sacrifices.

Murder, My Sweet is a fine example of film noir.
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The second version of the story and the best, with atmospheric direction, tough dialogue, convincing characters and great performances
bob the moo4 December 2004
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.
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Chandler's opinion of Powell
David Watkins4 September 2003
Chandler once said that Powell was his favourite - not, naturally, his ideal - screen Marlowe. Though "Bogart is always excellent as Bogart", he wasn't Marlowe.

Claire Trevor is the classic proof of how personality is more important than looks, even in sexy parts. Short, powerfully built, coarse-featured, she comes across here as overpoweringly glamorous and alluring.
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Love The Wisecracks, But Wish It Was Easier To Understand
ccthemovieman-113 May 2006
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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Murder, My Sweet: Just About Unforgettable
imagiking15 January 2011
In the course of a detailed exploration of the history of Hollywood cinema, I came eventually to the world of genre. Film noir was one in particular which enticed me, its combination of German Expressionism influenced cinematography, gritty drama, and memorable dialogue instantly more appealing than the inherent morality of the western or the choreographed aesthetic of the musical. Offered as a paragon of the noir, Murder, My Sweet was my second of the genre, and first to introduce me to both the private eye and the femme fatale.

Hired by the appropriately named Moose Malloy, private eye Philip Marlowe is tasked with finding his former lover Velma. When a client hiring Marlowe to act as a bodyguard is murdered whilst attempting to purchase back a stolen necklace, the detective finds himself thrust into a world of deception, confusion, and convolution.

A narrative explored through the now-blinded protagonist's flashback, Murder, My Sweet benefits from one of the greatest narrations in cinematic memory. Adapted from the novel Farewell, My Lovely by hardboiled crime fiction legend Raymond Chandler, the film exploits the author's rich dialogue at every chance it gets. Marlowe is the king of the simile, each line coming from him awash with a cynicism-laced hilarity. The script is the kind that, upon a second viewing, will have your lips moving along with it, so unforgettable are the words within. Dick Powell, a musical star, delivers these iconic lines as though he was born to speak them, his straight-faced gaze as important to their effect as their original composition. The plot, in line with this "seeker hero" vein of noir, is distorted, intricate, and demanding. Full attention is a base requirement to understanding the turns in the film's story as Marlowe pursues the answers to questions which have often yet to be asked. Powell's performance—surely the best interpretation of Marlowe set to celluloid; certainly the greatest of what I've seen—finds support in the broad cast of characters which appear regularly throughout his investigation. The archetypal noir relationships are all present here, and well articulated. Not afraid to play on concepts to a degree, the film has us wondering for a time the allegiances of the two central female characters, neither of their motives entirely understood until the film's climactic ending. One of the most cinematographically experimental and entertaining aspects of the film is the inevitable scene in which the protagonist is knocked unconscious by a sadistic thug, Marlowe's awakening from this accompanied by some of the narration's best moments and the camera's oddest tricks and techniques. A particularly enjoyable aspect of the film, to mention yet another, is the ongoing relationship between Marlowe and the police force, the balance of animosity and tolerance—a staple of the genre—given some of its best treatment here.

Thanks to Murder, My Sweet, my undying admiration for this genre was cemented after just two visits. On the more comedic side of the aforementioned, it is undoubtedly the finest example of the delicious dialogue of the novels from which the genre was spawned. Powell's Marlowe is, for my money, the finest, Marlowe himself perhaps film noir's greatest character. Probably the finest of this branch of detective based noir, Murder, My Sweet is just about unforgettable.
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The film certainly marked an astonishing transformation in its star...
Nazi_Fighter_David23 April 2005
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 States…

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...
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Murder, My Sweet
random_avenger10 September 2010
Based on the novel Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, Edward Dmytryk's film adaptation Murder, My Sweet is one of the essential works in the genre of film noir. The film stars one of Chandler's most famous characters: private detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) has been arrested and explains his story to the police in a flashback. Everything started when Marlowe is hired by a tall, violent man named Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to track down a woman. He is also approached by a rich family to investigate the theft of a valuable jade necklace, but Marlowe soon realizes that there is more at stake than just jewellery. Can anybody be trusted, when everyone from the family's daughter Ann (Anne Shirley) to a self- proclaimed psychic named Amthor (Otto Kruger) seems to be reaching for their own personal goals?

Describing Murder, My Sweet is like listing the characteristics of film noir in general: shadowy and starkly contrasted black & white cinematography, morally ambiguous characters, snappy dialogue... All the traditional noir elements work fine in the movie, but what Murder... is probably best remembered for is the surreal dream sequence and its drug-hazed aftermath that powerfully capture the sense of confusion and weakness in front of an overpowering opponent. The striking imagery of the sequence is actually so effective that it somewhat overshadows the other scenes that are largely dialogue-driven. The arguably confusing plot is full of twists and turns that further underscore the unpredictable nature of the world the film is set in – it can be said that the mood is equally important to the plot.

Dick Powell plays the lead role quite lightly and doesn't come across as tough as some other noir detectives. The final scene would actually fit better in a romantic comedy, but for the most part Powell can pull the hard boiled image off well enough. Of the supporting actors the most memorable ones are the menacing Mike Mazurki as the easily angered (if slightly cartoonish) "Moose" Malloy and Ralf Harolde as the calm Dr. Sonderborg whose indifferent attitude during the drug sequence makes the scene all the more devoid of hope.

Even though film noir hasn't become one of my favourite types of cinema, Murder My Sweet is a rather enjoyable crime story on its own right. As one of the most notable examples of the genre, it is a good starting place for noir novices and essential viewing for any experienced fan of the genre, in case there are any noir enthusiasts that have yet to see it.
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Fine Cast, Messy Plot
dougdoepke20 June 2011
The hard-boiled dialog flies faster here than eggs at Easter. Then too, practically every line out of Marlowe's (Powell) mouth is a cynical figure of speech, making the 90-minutes one of the more corrosive in the private eye canon. No need to recap the plot since I couldn't, anyway. There're so many twists and turns on who did what to whom, you may need to call in the proverbial rocket scientist. But then, I think writer Chandler said something about reality being a lot messier than usual detective fiction. Judging from this, he wasn't kidding.

Speaking of messy, catch the great Esther Howard as old lady Florian. No one was better at sloppy slatterns than the be-robed Howard, and when she says "no peeking" to Marlowe as her robe flops open, I'll bet a wave of shudders swept across theatres everywhere. At the same time, ex-song and dance man Powell shows he could do hard cases with the best of them, that is, when he wasn't jumping helplessly into another 'black pool'. And who knew hulking thug Mazurki could go from lion to lamb so quickly. It's really he who gives the film a heart.

There's some great photography and art direction from RKO's expert production team. No wonder that studio became the one of record for post-war noir. In fact, this 1944 effort signals the emerging era of noir, bringing together the private eye and a chaotic world of shadows, as it does. I especially like those final beach house scenes, perched precariously beside a dark sea of eternity.

Anyway, the movie's a fine piece of private eye noir; just don't try to figure out the plot, which is incidental, anyhow.
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The dark pit opened up and I dived right in!
Spikeopath4 March 2008
Well well, here we have a noir film that really has to be one of the most divisive in the genre, it would seem that some feel it's closer in texture to what Raymond Chandler wrote, and that the portrayal of Phillip Marlowe by Dick Powell is spot on in its execution.

Many others disagree completely though...

Now since I haven't read any of the novels Chandler wrote I have no frame of reference there, but having watched The Big Sleep this past week I feel the push me pull you polar opposite feelings this film creates.

Phillip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is a gruff wise cracking private eye, he is hired by ex convict Moose Malloy (a splendid Mike Mazurki) to find former girlfriend Velma who has been missing for 6 years, this sends him spiralling into a web of deceit, blackmail, theft, murder, in short all the great ingredients for classic noir. For sure the film has a cracking plot that dovetails a treat, but is it dark enough to fully flesh out the material? I just got this annoying itch that where the film should be getting murkier and deadly dark it was in fact far too breezy. Powell does good enough, but the wisecracks to me became more of a hindrance than an enjoyment, I felt in short that I was being lifted out of the dark when I actually wanted to stay cloaked in mud.

The film is still an incredible watch, the photography from Harry Wild is lush, and the core essence of the story is bang on the money, while I should mention the cracking performances of the supporting cast as Claire Trevor and Otto Kruger join in the mystery to help raise the film to a higher standard. Some scenes are joyous in the extreme, witness a nightmare sequence that is as gorgeous as it is unnerving, and director Edward Dmytryk excels in creating a bleak topsy turvy underworld, I just wish that this particular film had done away with the airiness. 8/10
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Chandler's Marlowe at his gritty best--a creative whirlwind
secondtake17 January 2013
Murder, My Sweet (1944)

One of the classic film noirs. And with all the trademarks of style, story, and character. On top of that, it's really good! I can watch any low grade bad film noir and like it, but this one is for everyone. Fast, crazy, dramatic, beautiful. And with such sparkling "noir" dialog you want to see it twice. In a row.

The premise here is that a jade necklace has gone missing and a man hires detective Philip Marlowe to be bodyguard when he goes to buy it back. Things go wrong, but lucky for Marlowe he is now on the inside of a duplicitous bunch of thugs, many of them part of one family. It gets confusing if you don't listen closely and don't get the noir slang, but you realize you don't totally need to follow every nuance of the plot. It's also largely about style, about how this is all told and played out for the cameras.

There are a handful of formative early film noirs going back to "The Maltese Falcon" which has some echoes to this one. Most are based on detective stories like this one by Raymond Chandler. Like most mystery or detective fiction, there is a formula at work, a huge dependency on one main character and his point of view, and a slightly contrived plot without deep emotional stakes. Later noirs can get more personal and involving emotionally (like "Out of the Past" or even the 1945 "Mildred Pierce") but the point of view of the protagonist is still important because it's from a lonely position as the world swirls around. The detective was a perfect starting point for this genre--detectives work alone, after all, and see things the rest of us never dream of.

So Marlowe gets taken for quite a ride. Dick Powell is terrific in the role. He's no Bogart or Mitchum, and he's no looker (no Dana Andrews). And so he becomes a really regular guy, someone you can relate to. He's tough and savvy and he has a great sense of humor in his interior monologues (another feature of noirs, used heavily here). And when he's abused you feel less like it's a Hollywood star up there but just a character. It works well.

There are some really inventive visual things happening. The first happens several times, with black inky pools taking over the screen when he gets knocked out. But there are other distortions, and a fabulous (if technically simple) hallucination sequence that surely had some small influence on Hitchcock in making "Vertigo." When you finally get to the end of this whole up and down adventure you've been a lot of places quickly. It's quite a movie.

Don't expect normal realism. The movie is stylized and made to be illustrative, even as it gets gritty and real. The whole situation is a bit improbable, but forget likelihood. Go for the ride yourself. Get into the dialog (which is as classic as it gets). And watch it. Or watch it twice.

Oh, and if you want a treat, check out the weird and actually terrific remake, hard to find on DVD, with Robert Mitchum in rich "noir" color called "Farewell, My Lovely." With Charlotte Rampling, no less.
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Good movie, better book.
DaleT14 May 2000
From one of Chandler's best novels comes a movie that's been put through Hollywood's gloss machine (thought not as much as Hawks' The Big Sleep) but still turns out great. I can't think of anyone, living or dead, who would better fit Marlowe's description physically or give a performance truer to the books. In fact, of all the actors who played the role in his lifetime (1888-1959), Powell was Chandler's favorite. (Bogart is a terrific actor, but slightly old and thin for the part.)

Claire Trevor is the perfect Helen Grayle, married into high society but still with the morals and discretion of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Given what could've been a throwaway role, Trevor treats the character like a human being instead of just an amusing caricature.

Anne Shirley plays an Ann that differs somewhat from Ann Riordan in Farewell My Lovely, and not only because in this she's Helen's stepdaughter, adding a new dimension to Helen's extracurricular activities. Miss Grayle is sweeter and shyer than Miss Riordan, and also less interesting.

All in all, every noir or Chandler fan should see Murder My Sweet at least once.
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Complex and Mysterious Story
claudio_carvalho21 September 2016
The private detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is hired by the violent and stupid Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to seek out his former girlfriend Velma Valento. Moose spent eight years in prison and lost contact with her. Marlowe goes to the night-club where Velma worked but the owner died years ago; then he visits the widow that tells that she does not know Velma. However Marlowe finds a photo of Velma and the woman says that she is dead. On the next morning, Marlowe is visited in his office by a man called Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton) and he offers US$ 100 to Marlowe work as his bodyguard in an isolated area where he will pay an amount to retrieve stolen jewels. However things go wrong and Marriott is killed and Marlowe is hit on the head and faints. Marlowe goes to the police station to report the murder; the detectives ask if he knows a man called Jules Amthor (Otto Kruger) and to stay away from the man. Marlow meets Ann Grayle (Anne Shirley) in his office asking about the murder posing as a reporter. She brings him home and introduces his wealthy old father Leuwen Grayle (Miles Mander) and his young wife Helen Grayle (Claire Trevor) to him. Marlowe learns that a rare and expensive jade necklace was stolen from Helen when she was dancing with Marriott and Leuwen hires him to retrieve the jewel. When Marlowe is leaving the house, he stumbles upon Amthor. Then Moose forces Marlowe to go to Amthor's house and he drugs Marlowe trying to find where the necklace is. When Marlowe succeeds to escape, he starts to think to solve the puzzle. Who might have stolen the jade necklace? What happened with Verna Valento?

"Murder, My Sweet" is a complex film-noir with a mysterious detective story. The plot has many details and the viewer must pay attention to them. The plot begins with the private detective Philip Marlowe seeking out a vanished girl; switches to the investigation of a stolen jade necklace; and ends entwining the investigations. The romantic conclusion is entertaining. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Até a Vista, Querida" ("See You Later, Darling")
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The best Marlowe film there is!
james.winn21 October 2000
Probably the best Chandler adaptation there is. Dick Powell's Marlowe blows Bogart's clean out of the water, with a characterization much closer to Chandler's original. This Marlowe is a confused, sometimes naive, man trying to find his way in an emotionally and morally corrupt world. Claire Trevor's icy femme fatale is the controlling presence in the film making the men around her dance to her tune.
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The best Raymond Chandler adaptation and the best Philip Marlowe? Chandler thought so.
bmacv3 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Edward Dmytryk's Murder, My Sweet was one of the clutch of American movies finally released in France after World War II that led Nino Frank to coin the phrase "film noir." (And the world hasn't been quite the same ever since.) The term was in startled reaction to the darkened, fatalistic look and sensibility that had crept into America's perpetually sunny cinema. And while less than a perfect recension of Raymond Chandler's more discursive and ruminative novel Farewell, My Lovely, (which had been filmed if butchered the year before, as The Falcon Takes Over), the movie remains, at more than 60 years, a hellishly entertaining thriller and one of the more emblematic titles of the noir cycle which it helped to inaugurate.

Picking up where the (just) pre-war The Maltese Falcon left off, Murder, My Sweet takes us down those mean streets of Los Angeles that were to become, immortally, Chandler's milieu. As opposed to Dashiell Hammett's cynical, hard-as-asphalt gumshoe Sam Spade (the role, along with his Mad Dog Earle in High Sierra of the same year, that made Humphrey Bogart a big star), Chandler's Philip Marlowe was a more sullen, complicated and emotionally involved private eye; while Hammett told Spade's adventures in the third person, Chandler let Marlowe's unfurl, tellingly, in the first – he's plainly the major character in his stories. And in Dick Powell, reborn from '30s light leading man into rough-stubbled tough guy, Marlowe finds an ideal embodiment: Testy, reluctant and often befuddled, Powell intuitively gauges and portrays Marlowe's range and personality more convincingly than his rivals Bogart (in The Big Sleep) or the various Montgomerys (Robert and George, in The Lady in the Lake or The Brasher Doubloon, respectively) came close to doing.

Murder, My Sweet gets narrated almost entirely in flashback. We open in a police station where Marlowe, his eyes bandaged owing to gunpowder burns, undergoes a grilling about a bloodbath. But soon we're back in Marlowe's office at the beginning, where his creep-in client Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) looms up spectrally, reflected in a night-darkened window (the responsive photography is by Harry Wild, whose work would dignify many fine films from The Magnificent Ambersons to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).

Next, we travel out the window through a neon-lit nightscape to the faded allure of Florian's Bar, in pursuit of Malloy's old squeeze Velma Valento, who has seemingly vanished from the crust of the earth while he spent eight years in stir. A lot changes in eight years, including Florian's, no longer a night spot with a stage but a hard-hat bar. Nobody there claims to have heard of this Velma, but Mazurki trashes the joint anyway.

With the help of a phone book, which obliging lists (as "wid Mike") the former proprietor's wife, Marlowe pays a visit, bottle of top-shelf booze in hand, to Jesse Florian, a blowsy old streel played to the hilt by Esther Howard (whose face looks like "a bucket of mud"). Ostensibly (and habitually) drunk, she has enough wits about her to steer Marlowe wrong about the whereabouts of the elusive Velma and to place an ominous phone-call at his parting.

With the introduction of what seems to be a sub-plot, Murder, My Sweet pays belated homage to its predecessor. A dandified client (Douglas Walton) plays the Joel Cairo role from The Maltese Falcon ("He smells real...nice," the elevator boy tips off Marlowe). It's a story about a rendezvous to score back some stolen jade, and he wants Marlowe to serve as bodyguard; Marlowe ends up sapped, and his client ends up dead.

Feeling he's failed however doubtful a client, Marlowe follows the trail of the purloined jade. His quest leads him to monied Brentwood and the many-acred manse of Judge Grayle, an old eminence equipped with a wife decades his junior (Claire Trevor). When His Honor, in need of an emergency nap, departs, his wife continues to entertain Marlowe ("Let's dispense with the polite drinking, shall we?" It's less a question than an invitation).

From then on, it's a trip up and down the many interlocking strata of Los Angeles society, from Grayle's daughter (and Trevor's stepdaughter) Anne Shirley (in her last role), to quack psychic Otto Kreuger, who operates a sinister sanitarium on non-existent Descanso Street. It's a trip into a shadow world where furtive connections, made or broken years ago, come unwillingly into the light. But, as a man true to his chivalric code, Marlowe persists, even when it leads him, at least three times, into the "dark pool" of unconsciousness (the phantasmagorical sequences owe a debt to the "guilty" nightmare in Boris Ingster's Stranger on the Third Floor). Ultimately, his persistence leads him to lock horns, if not quite lips, with the most unregenerate of femmes fatales....

Murder, My Sweet's a bit too short to do full justice to Chandler's rich web of duplicity and dead ends. But it stays closer to the author's vision, and his protagonist's code, than the most popular version of his work, The Big Sleep, where Bogart played the most Hollywoodized of the Marlowes. Here, Powell hews close to Marlowe's ambivalence, even squeamishness, about the messes he's paid to clean up. And Chandler's almost puritanical distaste for the matters he chose to write about surfaces, most notably in Shirley's tirade near the end (she had started out talking about why she hates men, but expertly shifts gears): "I hate their women, too. Especially their big-league blondes, beautiful, expensive babes who know what they've got...but inside, blue steel – cold." At least one of those blondes started out as a redhead, singing at Nick Florian's bar....

Murder, My Sweet revivified the careers of its two stars, Powell and Trevor. And it helped prime the stalled pump of the noir cycle, which would roll along for another 15 years or so. And, as one of its best achievements, it ages well, even into a new millennium.
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Just my observations of an interesting film
ramunno67920 February 2003
I am sort of a cult fan of the films of the 30s and 40s. Mr Powell was one of my favorite actors which made this film even more satisfying for me. Even though, by today's standards, the plot would appear fanciful and unrealistic, in my view it is what it was intended to be, great entertainment. No blood, profanity or intense graphics. Just a blend of imagination and film to create a pleasurable 2 hours. Some great scenes while Mr Marlowe was unconscious. Classic portrayal of an oaf by Mr Mazurki also a favorite of mine. Thank God for films like these. Now.....On to Charlie Chan.
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"You Gotta' Find Velma"
Bucs196014 August 2002
I'll grant you that Dick Powell is not Humphrey Bogart and Claire Trevor is not Lauren Bacall but they were a tough act to follow....or in this case to precede. You've got to give Powell credit for changing his screen persona so dramatically, and professionally it was a smart move on his part. It may be difficult to imagine him as Chandler's hard-boiled detective and you might expect him to break into "By A Waterfall" at any minute, but give it a chance. He actually does a damn good job and plays Marlowe with style and toughness. Although you wonder how many times he can be beaten up, conked on the head and drugged before he falls completely apart! The support in this film is top notch. Otto Kruger is so smarmy as Anthor.....what was this guy's story anyway? Mike Mazurki, a former wrestler, who made a career out of playing big, dumb guys plays a big, dumb guy who just wants to find Velma. He can't be fact nobody can be trusted in this film. It will keep you guessing and will hold your interest throughout. The story line is a bit convoluted but not as much so as "The Big Sleep" which is the epitome of film noir. This movie is right up there with the best, so don't be put off by the fact that a former singer from the 30's is the star......he pulls it off beautifully!!
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From musicals to Marlowe: one giant leap
Oct29 April 2002
Dick Powell accomplished the most astonishing change of image in Hollywood history when he took on the part of Philip Marlowe. Hitherto known as the bright-eyed bush baby who squired Ruby Keeler through Busby Berkeley musicals, Powell suddenly emerged as a convincingly battered but unbeaten private eye, retaining in his characterisation the kernel of idealism that Chandler appreciated and Bogart and Mitchum missed. (As for Robert Montgomery in "Lady in the Lake", maybe it was sensitivity about his total physical unlikeness to Marlowe that made him adopt the through-the-camera-eye technique.)

"Murder My Sweet" has much of the gloomy atmospheric power and clipped, incisive dialogue of "Force of Evil" a few years later. It's one of the founding titles of the film noir cycle. Not till James Fox played Chas in "Performance" would an actor pull off such a transformation in his screen personality as Powell managed here.
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