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Marlowe Times Three

Raymond Chandler had the good fortune to have three excellent movies adapted from his books. There have been others, too, but they are either rarely seen or not quite up to snuff.

  • The Big Sleep (Warner Brothers 1946), directed by Howard Hawks with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe
  • Lady in the Lake (MGM 1947), directed by Robert Montgomery and starring the director as Marlowe
  • Murder, My Sweet (RKO 1944), directed by Edward Dmytryk with Dick Powell as Marlowe

The films are listed in order from my most favorite to my least favorite—though I like all three very much and have seen all of them multiple times.I consider The Big Sleep as one of the 10 best American films ever made.

Lady in the Lake was a tour de force all filmed by Robert Montgomery from the point of view of Philip Marlowe. The only times we see Marlowe are at the beginning and end of the film and when Marlowe looks in the mirror. It was a chancy experiment, but it succeeded largely because of the great acting job put in by Audrey Totter.

I just saw Murder, My Sweet again for the nth time this afternoon on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The film was based on Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. It came at a key point in Dick Powell’s acting career: Hitherto, he had been a singer and dancer. With this film, he showed he could be as hard-boiled as anyone in Hollywood.

Raymond Chandler’s novels and stories are among my favorite works of mystery fiction. I have read them all, several of them multiple times. And I will continue to re-view these three films again and again.