Double Indemnity (1944; USA; B&W; 107m) ***** d. Billy Wilder; w. Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler; ph. John F. Seitz; m. Miklós Rózsa. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Gig Young, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bonanova, Edmund Cobb, Byron Barr, John Philliber, Clarence Muse, Bess Flowers, Sam McDaniel. An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions. Classic and highly influential film noir with a tight script, hardboiled and witty dialogue and first-rate performances. Stanwyck is the deceptive, but alluring, femme fatale and MacMurray the smitten salesman. Robinson is superb as the eccentric investigator. Based on the novel by James M. Cain. Remade as a TV Movie in 1973. [PG]
Long Goodbye, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 112m) *** d. Robert Altman; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Vilmos Zsigmond; m. John Williams. Cast: Elliott Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Jim Bouton, Warren Berlinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rutanya Alda, Jo Ann Brody, Vincent Palmieri, Pancho Cordova, Enrique Lucero, George Wyner. Detective Philip Marlowe tries to help a friend who is accused of murdering his wife. Altman re-imagines Raymond Chandler’s classic novel in a contemporary setting with Gould portraying Marlowe as a detective out-of-his time. The gimmick allows Altman to pass comment on the degradation of society and the values of life, but in doing so he sucks the power from Chandler’s original story. There are some nice directorial touches and improvised set-pieces, but this will ultimately only fully please those fully attuned to the director’s surreal vision. Schwarzenegger, who plays a bodyguard, has no lines in the film. 
Reports have been issued of the casting of Liam Neeson to play Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of Benjamin Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) novel The Black-Eyed Blonde. Neeson will follow in the footsteps of Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet in 1944), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep in 1946), Rober Montgomery (Lady in the Lake in 1947), George Montgomery (The Brasher Doubloon also in 1947), James Garner (Marlowe in 1968), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye in 1973) and Robert Mitchum (Farewell, My Lovely in 1975 and The Big Sleep in 1978).
The script has been written by William Monahan (The Departed) who commented, “The book by Benjamin Black was a pleasure to adapt, and with Marlowe there’s no chance of even being asked to do it left-handed. You have to do Chandler justice, carry a very particular flame, or stay home.”
The adaptation, like the 1968 adaptation of The Little Sister is at this time simply titled Marlowe, will be brought to the screen by Nickel City Pictures and producer Gary Levinson.
Brasher Doubloon, The (1947; USA; B&W; 72m) ∗∗½ d. John Brahm; w. Dorothy Bennett, Leonard Praskins; ph. Lloyd Ahern; m. David Buttolph. Cast: George Montgomery, Nancy Guild, Conrad Janis, Roy Roberts, Fritz Kortner, Florence Bates, Marvin Miller. Philip Marlowe gets involved when limp-wristed and snidely heir steals a rare doubloon from his mother to give to a newsreel photographer in exchange for film that is being used for blackmail purposes. Mystery has some effective moments, but this is ultimately an uneven adaptation with Montgomery lacking the cynical edge required as Marlowe. Based on the novel “The High Window” by Raymond Chandler. Previously filmed as TIME TO KILL (1942). Aka: THE HIGH WINDOW. [PG]
Big Sleep, The (1946; USA; B&W; 114m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. Howard Hawks; w. William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; ph. Sidney Hickox; m. Max Steiner. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Peggy Knudsen, Regis Toomey, Charles Waldron, Charles D. Brown, Bob Steele, Elisha Cook Jr., Louis Jean Heydt. Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love. Classic film noir is a convoluted mystery given a huge cinematic presence through Hawks’ masterful direction and the sizzling chemistry between Bogart and Bacall. Brilliantly written pacey and combative dialogue is peppered with wisecracks delivered by a strong cast. Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. Originally filmed in 1944, wasn’t released until two years later. Some prints derive from a slightly different early preview version (116m) with alternate footage. Remade in 1978. [PG]
Murder, My Sweet (1944; USA; B&W; 95m) ∗∗∗∗½ d. Edward Dmytryk; w. John Paxton; ph. Harry J. Wild; m. Roy Webb. Cast: Dick Powell, Anne Shirley, Mike Mazurki, Claire Trevor, Otto Kruger, Miles Mander, Douglas Walton, Donald Douglas, Ralf Harolde, Esther Howard, Jack Carr, Ralph Dunn, George Anderson, Paul Phillips, Larry Wheat. After being hired to find an ex-con’s former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit. Densely plotted and stylishly filmed mystery with Powell making a strong impression as a pre-Bogart Philip Marlowe. Proved to be hugely influential on the film noir genre with its use of voiceover, night-time settings, adventurous framing, seedy characters and hardboiled dialogue. Based on the novel “Farewell, My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler, the title used for its UK release. Filmed previously as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and remade as FAREWELL, MY LOVELY in 1975. [PG]
THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE by BENJAMIN BLACK (2014, Picador, Paperback, 290pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Maybe it was time I forgot about Nico Peterson, and his sister, and the Cahuilla Club, and Clare Cavendish. Clare? The rest would be easy to put out of my mind, but not the black-eyed blonde . . . It is the early 1950s. In Los Angeles, Private Detective Philip Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client arrives: young, beautiful, and expensively dressed, Clare Cavendish wants Marlowe to find her former lover, a man named Nico Peterson. Soon Marlowe will find himself not only under the spell of the Black-Eyed Blonde; but tangling with one of Bay City’s richest families – and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune . . .
John Banville, under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black, takes on the mantle of continuing the literary cases of Philip Marlowe. I’m a huge fan of Raymond Chandler and his iconic creation. Chandler added depth to his hero as the series progressed peaking with the extraordinary The Long Goodbye (1953). It is from that book that Black takes his lead here.
What starts out as a straight-forward mystery becomes linked to events in Marlowe’s past as he unravels the case surrounding the supposed death of a rich socialite’s lover. All is not as it seems and the mystery, which initially unfolds at a steady pace, gathers momentum in its closing chapters through to its surprise conclusion. Black proves himself to be a worthy successor to Chandler and Marlowe is in good hands.
THE LITTLE SISTER by RAYMOND CHANDLER (1949, Hamish Hamilton /Penguin Books Ltd., Paperback, 2010 edition, 298pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Her name is Orfamay Quest and she’s come all the way from Manhattan, Kansas, to find her missing brother Orrin. Or leastways that’s what she tells PI Philip Marlowe, offering him a measly twenty bucks for the privilege. But Marlowe’s feeling charitable – though it’s not long before he wishes he wasn’t so sweet. You see, Orrin’s trail leads Marlowe to luscious movie starlets, uppity gangsters, suspicious cops and corpses with ice picks jammed in their necks. When trouble comes calling, sometimes it’s best to pretend to be out . . .
The Little Sister is Chandler’s fifth Philip Marlowe novel and alongside his next book, The Long Goodbye, shows Marlowe at his most lonely, world-weary and vulnerable. The plot is a complex tangle but concentrates on a core group of characters – all of them fuelled by selfish greed. Chandler takes a number of opportunities for social commentary and displays an obvious dislike for the Hollywood industry which makes gods out of fakes.
The dialogue has a biting wit to it that shows Chandler increasingly digging beneath the surface and replacing what was once seen as mere cynicism with a darker melancholy. Marlowe in particular seems to be fighting his own self-doubts and solitude. The mystery itself weaves in twists and turns as one would expect but almost becomes secondary to Marlowe’s increasing hostility to all around him.
As such the novel will satisfy hard-boiled mystery buffs. For connoisseurs this novel represents a further step in Chandler’s desire to add more substance to his stories. He would go on to take this approach to its extreme with his classic The Long Goodbye.
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975, E. K. Corporation/ITC, USA, 100 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Mono, Cert: 15, Mystery) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Robert Mitchum (Philip Marlowe), Charlotte Rampling (Mrs. Helen Grayle), John Ireland (Lt. Nulty), Sylvia Miles (Mrs. Jessie Florian), Anthony Zerbe(Laird Brunette), Harry Dean Stanton (Billy Rolfe), Jack O’Halloran (Moose Malloy), Joe Spinell (Nick), Sylvester Stallone (Jonnie), Kate Murtagh (Frances Amthor), John O’Leary (Lindsay Marriott), Walter McGinn (Tommy Ray), Burton Gilliam (Cowboy), Jim Thompson (Mr. Baxter Wilson Grayle), Jimmie Archer (Georgie).
Producer: George Pappas, Jerry Bruckheimer; Director: Dick Richards; Writer: David Zelag Goodman (based on the novel by Raymond Chandler); Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo (Technicolor); Music: David Shire; Film Editor: Walter Thompson, Joel Cox; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis, Art Director: Angelo Graham; Set Decorator: Bob Nelson; Costume Designer: Tony Scarano, Silvio Scarano, Sandra Berke.
Delightful version of Raymond Chandler’s classic 1940 novel, previously filmed as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and MURDER MY SWEET (1945). Mitchum is a perfect world-weary Marlowe, despite his age and Richards creates an authentic translation of the author’s prose.
Marlowe is hired by oversized ex-con Moose Malloy (O’Halloran) to trace the girl he has not seen for seven years. What follows is a twisting tale of deceit, spiced with witty dialogue and colourful characters. The period detail is also excellent with the dark photography (by Alonzo who also worked on the previous year’s genre classic Chinatown) and mournful music score adding considerably to the mood.
In a strong supporting cast, Miles (nominated for a supporting actress Academy Award) scores heavily as a booze-soaked ex-dancer and Ireland is imposing as the seemingly only honest cop, Nulty. Also impressive is Murtagh as the butch madam of a brothel who also gets the better of Marlowe physically. Some of the other performances are more variable – former boxer O’Halloran is physically imposing as Moose, but delivers his lines with a stiffness that matches his build. Rampling manages to create some sexual tension, but lacks the finesse for this type of role of a Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake.
Richards’ pacing of the story is well-judged and his work on this meticulously designed film is supported by editors Thompson and Cox in retaining a sense of clarity and flow through the complex plot twists.
The film’s success led to Mitchum playing Marlowe again in the less successful remake of THE BIG SLEEP in 1978, which bizarrely switched location from 1940s LA to 1970s London.