Re: RARA-AVIS: the voice of hardboiled

Date: 13 Aug 2001

Re Mark's questions below:

> These movies [*Maltese Falcon* & *Big Sleep*]
> were relatively
> early in his ascent to stardom, right? Among his
> first roles as the
> good guy instead of as a heavy, a shift from
> Petrified Forrest and High
> Sierra, right?

*The Maltese Falcon* came right after *High Sierra*, though he'd played a good guy (a racket-busting DA modeled on Thomas Dewey) in *Marked Woman* some years earlier, and in one or two other films, as well.

By the time he made *The Big Sleep*, he'd already been in *Casablanca* (for which he got an Oscar nomination and the picture an Oscar), *To Have and Have Not*,
*Sahara*, etc., and his star status was unchallenged.

> Now his depiction seems definitive, but does anyone
> know how he was felt
> to compare with other movie PIs at the time? I know
> Chandler felt Cary
> Grant best suited the role of Marlowe and didn't he
> prefer Dick Powell's
> portrayal to Bogart's.

Chandler never actually said that Grant would be the best Marlowe. He said that Grant was the actor who looked most like Chandler's visual image of the character, which isn't quite the same thing.

He did say that Powell's portrayal was closer to the Marlowe of the books than anyone else's, though I get the impression that he was a bit ambivalent about the movie, not because he thought that Powell, Dmytryk, etc., had done a bad job, but because he didn't make a cent out of it (having already sold the rights to RKO some years earlier when they made the book into a
"Falcon" series entry). However much he may have preferred Powell, however, he was also very pleased with Bogart's performance, saying that he seemed genuinely tough, not merely an actor pretending to be tough.

Personally, much as I love both *The Big Sleep* and Bogart's performance in it, I also prefer Powell and
*Murder, My Sweet*. Powell seems to me to capture Chandler's character as Chandler wrote about him better than any other actor to tackle the part. Bogart, on the other hand, takes the character and refits him into the by-then well-established Bogart persona. It works, of course, and works damned well, but I'd still give Powell the gold and Bogart the silver.


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