“Murder My Sweet” – 1944. Directed by Edward Dmytryk, script by John Paxton, based on the novel “Farewell My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler. Stars Dick Powell, Claire Trevor and Anne Shirley.
Not sure why I love this flick so much. It doesn’t have the emotional depth of “Out of the Past”, and “Double Indemnity” has a better, rope-tightening plot. Ditto “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. But “Murder My Sweet” has an effortless style about it, embodied in Dick Powell’s wry, silky portrayal of Raymond Chandler’s ace private investigator, Phillip Marlowe.
To my way of thinking film noir was a radical rejection of all that had come before. The horrors of World War II made the Frank Capra feel-good flicks seem like slight escapist fare, and even called into question mature romances like “Casablanca.”
Chandler reportedly preferred Dick Powell’s portrayal of his iconic creation even above Bogart’s more soulful turn in “The Big Sleep”. Conclusion? Keep it light, skim the surface with snappy patter. Keep the big, bad world at bay with lines like, “I only took this job because my bank account tried to crawl underneath a duck.”
Or the hulking Moose Malloy sighing, “Her name is Velma. She’s cute as lace pants.”
Or my favorite Marlowe line. “I was looking for a barber named Dmitri. I forget why.”
Forget being the operative word.
Of course the colorful cast of LA playboys, bogus mystics, dim-witted thugs, thuggish cops and babes on the make are the perfect foils for Powell’s seen-it-all-before Marlowe.
The films noir got more cynical in the post-war era as the enormity of WWII’s horrors sank in. (“Murder My Sweet” was made in 1944.) Flicks like “Ace in the Hole” and “Sweet Smell of Success” and that low-budge, sick puppy “Detour” are truer to the fatalist spirit of noir.
Which is another reason I prefer “MMS”. Call me a cockeyed optimist but I don’t watch a movie as a prelude to slashing my wrists.
Marlowe knows it’s a brutish, fetid world out there. But he’s a gin-soaked Galahad anyway.
A lot more fun to spend time with than Detour’s haunted, sad sack Tom Neal, who intones, “I keep trying to forget what happened. But there’s one thing I don’t have to wonder about. I know…Fate, or some mysterious force, will put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.”
Poor baby. Give me Marlowe every time.
Causes John Knoerle Supports
Paralyzed Veterans of America
St. Labre Indian School