Murder, My Sweet
Director/Studio/Author: Edward Dmytryk/RKO Radio Pictures/John Paxton
American release date: July 6, 2004 (original theatrical release 1944)
Format, Genre and length: DVD/Film Noir/95 minutes
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: NR
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★
Philip Marlowe’s in a bit of a bind; his eyes are bandaged and he’s being grilled by the police, who insist they tell him what they want to know. When Randall comes in, Marlowe (Dick Powell) agrees to talk, and begins to spin his tale.
It all begins when a big lunk named Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) drops into Marlowe’s office. He wants to find a gal he used to go with eight years ago—before he was sent away to prison—and he wants Marlowe’s help. Marlowe ends up accompanying him to a joint called Florian’s. But no one there knows or has heard of Velma, and Moose getting rough doesn’t help anything.
Marlowe agrees to help Moose. Although he’s big and prone to using his fists, he’s also naïve, and a bit slow. Marlowe traces the previous owner of the bar and finds his widow listed in the phone book, so he pays her a visit and plies her with booze. For a drink, she’s ready to tell what she knows. She acts cagey about Velma, and he catches her in a lie, taking a photo of the missing Velma with him.
Back at his office, he has another visitor—a well-dressed foppish gentleman who desires to avail himself of Marlowe’s services, but he isn’t as forthcoming about details as Marlowe would like. He finally gets the man, Lindsey Marriott (Douglas Walton), to admit that there’s a jade necklace involved that he’s paying to retrieve for a lady. Marlowe accompanies him to a deserted spot, off the beaten path. He goes to investigate, sees nothing, but when he returns to the car, he’s hit with a blackjack. When he awakens, it’s to find a flashlight held by a woman shining in his face. She drops it and runs. Then he discovers the dead body in the car and calls the cops.
A third visitor to his office (the elevator operator quips that he’s becoming successful) turns out to be the mysterious lady, one Ann Grayle (Ann Shirley). And the jade necklace belongs to her stepmother, Helen (Claire Trevor). There is obviously no love lost between stepmother and stepdaughter, and the flaxen blonde Helen isn’t slow in showing her attraction to Marlowe.
While following the case, Marlowe becomes involved with a psychic, drugs, a scam, a kidnapping, and more pain than should be given to one man in one lifetime. Will he survive long enough to figure out what’s going on, and who did it?
Murder, My Sweet is based on the novel Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, that I recently reviewed. It’s pretty much the same story, although some things have been changed and condensed, probably in the interest of time. In the book, Ann was Ann Riordan and not Grayle, therefore not related, but this way does make sense.
One huge change, though, had to do with the things I pointed out in my other review, the un-pc things. The black bar was that no longer. The smelly Indian working for Amthor wasn’t, and Amthor himself became white. The ship that figured in the book is completely gone. The circumstances of Marlowe being in the doctor’s place have slightly changed. But if you haven’t read the book, of course you won’t notice.
All in all, I think it was an enjoyable film, maybe not quite up to snuff with the Big Sleep, except in one regard. The casting of Philip Marlowe. Having seen both films and read both books, I have to say that Dick Powell’s performance was closer to the mark as regards the character that Chandler depicted than Bogart’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bogart. But Powell has it pretty dead-on with how I saw Marlowe, and while I was skeptical before I watched it, afterward I was a firm believer in Powell’s ability to act. I hadn’t seen him in anything before, so I had no preconceived notions, but I understand most of his roles were lightweight compared to this one. I hope he did more Marlowe films after this; he deserved it.
You might recognize the guy who played Moose if you ever watched Gilligan’s Island, and a lot of other old TV shows. He was type cast as the big, dumb heavy, but in real life, he was very intelligent and a witty conversationalist.
As with a lot of films, the romantic element was played up more than in the book, leaving Marlowe and Ann kissing in the back of a taxi. Not a bad ending, but I seriously doubt she appears in any of the other books. Guess I’ll find out.
A good film and a good way to spend an evening. I definitely recommend watching this if you enjoy film noir.