RARA-AVIS: Chandler at the Movies

Andy Hughes (AHughes@sbtinfo.com)
Fri, 24 Jul 1998 13:24:47 -0500 Here's a story from the L.A. Times syndicate that I thought most of us
would find useful, perhaps even worthy of discussion, regarding her
critiques. Missing, however, are the HBO series from the 1980s and
"Poodle Springs," which I assume must have occasioned this story.
-- Andy

Tracking Down Chandler's Detectives through the Decades
By Susan King
(c) 1998, Los Angeles Times
He put the hard in hard-boiled. He played a key role in the films
noir of the '40s and '50s and influenced the neo-noir films of the '90s.
He created one of the most beloved characters in fiction - detective
Philip Marlowe. Not only was Raymond Chandler a best-selling author of
such mysteries as "The Big Sleep" and "Farewell, My Lovely," he also
received two Oscar nominations for his screenplays.
Chandler would have just celebrated his 110th birthday. Born in
Chicago, Chandler spent his early years in England and began his career
there as a journalist. After World War I, he returned to America and
began selling short stories in the '30s. He died in 1959.
Numerous Chandler stories and novels have been turned into films, and
several of those - along with the films he wrote - are available on
Chandler's acclaimed novel, "Farewell, My Lovely" got its first
cinematic treatment as 1942's "The Falcon Takes Over" (Turner). Don't
look, though, for Marlowe in this low-budget but entertaining mystery.
The plot of Chandler's novel was refashioned for Michael Arlen's sleuth,
the Falcon. George Sanders stars.
Chandler received his first Oscar nomination in 1944 for co-adapting
(with Billy Wilder) James M. Cain's best-seller "Double Indemnity"
(Universal, $15). This is a marvelously acted thriller in which a
gullible insurance man (Fred MacMurray) teams with a femme fatale
(Barbara Stanwyck) to kill her husband for the insurance money.
Chandler's favorite version of "Farewell, My Lovely" is the crackling
1944 film noir "Murder, My Sweet" (Turner, $20). After being a
lightweight leading man in musicals, Dick Powell made a real
breakthrough as an actor as the tough, down-on-his luck shamus who is
searching for an ex-convict's missing girlfriend.
Humphrey Bogart, though, was the best Marlowe. He played the gumshoe
in Howard Hawks' 1946 version of "The Big Sleep" (MGM, $20), a confusing
but highly entertaining film noir in which Marlowe is hired by a rich
dying man to protect his reckless younger daughter (Martha Vickers).
Lauren Bacall plays the elder daughter with whom Marlowe falls in love.
It was originally filmed in 1944, but several scenes were shot later to
beef up Bacall's role. The first version was recently discovered and is
also available on MGM.
That same year, Chandler penned the super 1946 film noir "The Blue
Dahlia" (Universal, $15), for which he received his second Oscar
nomination. Alan Ladd plays a World War II vet who discovers his wife
has been two-timing him with the owner of a nightclub (Howard da Silva).
When his wife is discovered murdered, Ladd is the prime suspect.
Veronica Lake and a scene-stealing William Bendix also star.
Robert Montgomery also jumped on the Chandler bandwagon in 1946 with
his "The Lady in the Lake" (MGM, $20). Montgomery stars in and directed
this mystery, which uses the subjective camera to match Marlowe's
first-person narrative. The only time viewers can see Montgomery's face
is when he passes a mirror. Offbeat but not entirely successful.
Chandler provided a lot of the delicious dialogue as co-writer of
Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 classic "Strangers on a Train" (Warner, $20).
Robert Walker, in his finest performance, and Farley Granger star in
this story of two strangers who meet on a train and decide to "trade"
James Garner is a satisfactory Marlowe in "Marlowe" (MGM, $20), a
so-so film noir based on Chandler's "The Little Sister." In this 1969
outing, Marlowe is hired by a mysterious blond woman to find her
brother. Bruce Lee also stars.
Robert Altman offers his take on Chandler in his well-received,
irreverent 1973 thriller "The Long Goodbye" (MGM, $20). Elliott Gould
plays the rumpled gumshoe in this mystery set in Hollywood. Look for
Arnold Schwarzenegger as - what else? - a muscleman.
Robert Mitchum is a tad too long in the tooth as Marlowe in 1975's
"Farewell, My Lovely" (AVD, $13), an atmospheric adaptation of the
Chandler classic. Sylvester Stallone has a small part.
Mitchum returns as Marlowe in the 1978 remake of "The Big Sleep"
(AVD, $13). Mitchum sleepwalks through the part. A real snooze.

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