In the adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel, Farewell, My Lovely, Philip Marlowe is played by the up-‘til-that-time comedian “crooner” Dick Powell. The movie was re-titled as it was to avoid any indication that it would be a musical comedy.
Marlowe is hired by a really huge man with a barely functional brain to find his girl Velma, who “was cute as lace pants.”
And while he’s at it, Marlowe is also hired to drive some guy to a place in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night to drop off money for stolen jewels or something. It really doesn’t matter, because you know this can’t turn out well. And it doesn’t, because Marlowe gets thumped on the head, and falls into a “black pool” that has “no bottom.” When he wakes up, the client (who, oddly, was with him, even though Marlowe was paid to do this job) is dead as a doornail. Or dead as a really dead person. Which is to say, dead.
So, the bottom line is that Marlowe has these two cases, neither of which make much sense. Naturally, these cases connect through a really rich man, with a blonde femme fatale wife, who is too young for him. And his step-daughter, as always, doesn’t approve.
But she seems to like Marlowe. And so does Blondie the Horrible. Who turns out to be … well, never mind. That would be a spoiler.
As with most of the hardboiled detective films, making sense is less meaningful than delivering great lines. And Dick Powell rises to the occasion. He may not be Bogey, but those were mighty big shoes to fill.
In any case, Raymond Chandler wrote great lines like a dream. And here are a few:
Philip Marlowe: She was a charming middle-aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud. I gave her a drink. She was a gal who’d take a drink, if she had to knock you down to get the bottle.
Philip Marlowe: “’Okay Marlowe,’ I said to myself. ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough – like putting your pants on.’”
Philip Marlowe: I don’t know which side anybody’s on. I don’t even know who’s playing today.
Philip Marlowe: He died in 1940, in the middle of a glass of beer. His wife Jessie finished it for him.
Philip Marlowe: My throat felt sore, but the fingers feeling it didn’t feel anything. They were just a bunch of bananas that looked like fingers.
Helen Grayle: It’s a long story and not pretty.
Philip Marlowe: I got lots of time and I’m not squeamish.
Say what you will about Powell as Marlowe or the slightly cheesy, pre-CGI special effects. This film deserves two thumbs up!