Saturday, December 26, 2020

Movie Reviews: Murder, My Sweet

Murder, My Sweet
directed by Edward Dmytryk
This was the first film adaptation of one of novelist's Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe's detective stories. Leading man Dick Powell, previously known as a baby faced song and dance light comedian type played against type as the hardboiled detective Marlowe. This film mostly worked I thought. Powell's version of Marlowe is different than the Marlowe I knew as interpreted by Humphrey Bogart.
Although both actors convincingly bring across Marlowe's cynicism, distrust and quick witted snarky one liners, in my opinion Powell doesn't quite show Marlowe's occasional ruthlessness or menace the way that Bogart did. But YMMV. 
One good thing about this film is that despite sharing a lot of themes and even plots with the Chandler inspired movie, The Big Sleep, it is INFINITELY easier to understand.
Watching movies like this can make one wonder at just how influential writers like Chandler and a few others were at establishing the basic outline of modern American based detective thrillers. So this film may not have too many surprises for the modern viewer other than how familiar and up to date it seems.

Phillip Marlowe (Powell) is a down on his luck private detective whose bank account is in his words, "trying to crawl under a duck". So Marlowe's not really in a position to say no when a big, seemingly mentally slow, and extremely insistent ex-con named Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) stops by Marlowe's office to hire Marlowe to find Moose's old girlfriend Velma. Usually Marlowe tries to avoid nasty domestic affairs but (a) Moose is paying and (b) Moose is as large as a house and about as movable.
Shortly after he's begun some work for Moose, Marlowe is hired by the flamboyantly effeminate Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton) to protect Marriott as he acts as a go between to recover some stolen jewels. Marlowe doesn't like the job or Marriott but he needs money. Marlowe likes the job even less when he's knocked out and Marriott is beaten to death by persons unknown.
Reluctantly released by the cops and warned away from even looking like he's thinking about the case, Marlowe is pumped for information by the pretty, naive but persistent Ann Grayle (Anne Shirley). Ann invites Marlowe to her home or really more castle, where he meets her retirement age father (Miles Mander) and her father's much younger second wife, Ann's va-va-voom stepmother Helen Grayle (Claire Trevor). 

It was Helen's jewelry that Marriott was trying to recover. Helen would be oh so grateful if Marlowe would take on that job. She'll pay him and give him some money too. Ann would just as soon Marlowe didn't take the case. Ann doesn't care for Helen. Not at all. It becomes apparent to Marlowe that his cases are tied together.
Marlowe spends a LOT of time in this movie getting knocked out, beaten up and being at least two steps behind everyone else. In some respects it's almost comedic. Marlowe has interest in both of the Grayle women. Marlowe misses important things because he's staring at Helen's legs or thinking about Helen. 
Helen knows what goes where and why. Helen is fully aware of her impact on men. So is her husband, who alternates between pretending that he doesn't know what Helen's doing on her night time excursions and rueful acceptance that a man his age can't satisfy a younger woman. But even an old dog can still occasionally bite. The film's women are just as competent and as well drawn as the men and often more dangerous.
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