MovieChat Forums > Murder, My Sweet (1944) Discussion > dick powell is weak as marlowe

dick powell is weak as marlowe


played against type ("always smile, keep singing"), powell brings nothing new to this character, in fact he diminishes it.

by simply adopting "never smile" he fails to create an engaging character. but boy, does he look serious or what by never smiling?

even bogart -- in much earlier and less-mature roles -- knew a smile or laugh on behalf of *any* character showed humanity; be it good or evil.

i give you dick powell, the automaton.

the great writing (and some direction) saves him here, it gave him his new career.

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Sorry, but with all his amusing comments (such as the twenties which felt snug against his appendix) I didn't care how much Powell smiled.

One of the first films I ever saw Powell in, I thought he was wrong for the part. I didn't feel that way at all with this film. Powell kept me engaged from beginning to end.


Mag, Darling, you're being a bore.

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Each to his own taste. I've seen every big-screen incarnation of Marlowe, and Powell's will always be the definitive one for my money: weary, cynical, often confused and out of his depth but ever tenacious and ready with acerbic quips. Any dearth of grins or giggles works no hardship on me in discerning humanity in the portrayal, which can subtly step from ingratiating to insulting in a moment, or collapse from belligerent to beaten-down in a breath.

Edward Dmytryk's deft and atmospheric execution of John Paxton's screenplay tiptoes along a fine line between dead earnestness and tongue-in-cheek satire, and Powell's characterization is in perfect harmony therewith, along with assorted quintessential figures of the form: smooth-as-silk villain; slow-witted muscleman; heavy breathing and overwrought femme fatale.

As much as I enjoy and admire the '46 The Big Sleep, Bogart and the entire enterprise often step into calculated, "too cute" territory. Mitchum's laid-back outings were perhaps 25 or so years late. My vote for most miscast Marlowe comes in "undecided" between Robert Montgomery and Elliot Gould. Uncomfortably shoehorned into the hip late-'60s, James Garner's interpretation is an otherwise good fit (serving as an effective dry run for Rockford) and he was probably the best actor of the bunch.


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Garner is one of my favorite actors but I don't consider him to be a better actor than Bogie.

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To this noir aficionado, Doghouse 6 is pretty much on the money. According to Alain Silver's commentary track, Chandler was not enamored with Powell's portrayal although Dmytryk thought his performance of the infamous private dick was spot on.

Paxton did a good job in tightening up the script to produce a film but much of Powell's dialogue is straight from the novel.

For anyone that likes this film, definitely read the novel. Chandler's prose does a superior job in taking the reader back to the classic noir Los Angeles and Bay City (Santa Monica), the story-line is much more involved and there is no happy ending.

It is surprising that there is no Anne Shirley thread. She has such a sweet and lovely look when she's not angry with Marlowe. I was surprised at how petite (5'2") she was but unfortunately have been unable to find her 26 year old measurements.

There is no doubt that either the "Long Goodbye" is classic neo-noir or a cult classic. Altman directs with a very unique and effective technique, The DP used a difficult process in the lab with the film to achieve the look, and once one understands that Gould is playing "Rip Van Marlowe" his performance becomes more understandable and enjoyable. For those that haven't seen it, take a look. It's on my noir rotation and each viewing is a treat.

Montgomery's subjective treatment of the character may have seemed like a good idea but not being able to watch a performance of Marlowe just doesn't work for me.

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Thanks for your remarks.

The divergence in opinion that you note between Dmytryk and Chandler himself is representative of the process that takes place when literary characters are adapted for film, isn't it? It may not be a necessity, but it's certainly typical that some reinvention occurs. And nearly every screen incarnation of Marlowe has been a reinvention of some sort, and indeed, Mitchum's the only actor of the group to play him more than once.

But as I haven't read Farewell, My Lovely, I'm glad for your pointing out the direct use of Chandler's dialogue in Murder My Sweet. There can be no doubt he had a gift for it, and the punch he brought to that of Double Indemnity's screen adaptation adds vitality that James M. Cain's pages don't approach.

When it comes to The Long Goodbye, I have to admit I run hot or cold where Altman's singular style is concerned. It took some getting used to with M*A*S*H, which I think was the first of his films I'd seen when it was released, but on subsequent viewings it works for me, as it did in some others (Images, Nashville and 3 Women, for instance), but not in still others (McCabe & Mrs. Miller or California Split). But I think I've seen TLG only twice 40 years apart, and I'm sure I'll be giving it a future viewing or two. Maybe I'll warm to it, and if so, I'm sure your take (Gould is playing "Rip Van Marlowe") will help.





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Glad that I could provide a little help with one of my favorite neo-noirs, "TLG".

Man, once you get past the classic age of film noir beginning with "The Maltese Falcon" and ending with "Touch of Evil", the 70's standout as the last great decade of American film. With Segal and Gould and Altman calling the shots, "California Split" certainly works for me. Perhaps that has something to do with the subject matter which is near and dear to my heart. No release date yet for Blu-ray.

You would get no argument from me that Raymond Chandler is the best and most well known author of thriller/mystery novels. His work has never gone OOP. In my mind, Philip Marlowe is the archetypal private eye. Many have tried, but nobody has succeeded in supplanting Chandler's character.

I have a bad memory regarding "M*A*S*H" since it was released in 1970, the same year as "Catch 22" which I had a very very minor bit part in. "M*A*S*H" overshadowed what is now considered by some to be a Nichols' masterpiece.

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I apologize for somehow missing your reply when it posted in November. Care to share your Catch-22 story? And did you happen to catch the American Masters on Nichols on PBS a week or so back? Fascinating profile.

One has to allow for the way interview segments are edited - what they leave out and so forth - but Nichols' own latter-day remarks about Catch-22 (those that were left in) seemed to reflect a still-uncertain feeling about it: "I liked what we were doing, but while we were making it, I kept thinking, 'Something's wrong...this is not my kind of picture...something's wrong.'"

If you missed it, it's available for viewing on the PBS website until the end of the month. It really should have been a two- rather than one-hour piece to cover the breadth of his work, but it's well worth a watch, and his segments are tremendously engaging.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/mike-nichols-full-episode/6409/


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I couldn't agree less with the OP. I think Powell beats even Bogart as Marlowe.

Bogie was good, but he was playing Marlowe the same way he played Sam Spade.

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Powell too often comes across as this irate and slightly whiny little fella, impotently (even though often humorously) protesting against the injustices of the world. That's not the way I like my Marlowe. As for Powell though, he did bounce this hard-boiled noir talk down the stairs and way out of the court without missing a beat in the much overlooked 1951 number called Cry Danger. Some of the best dialogue you'll hear in any movie and Powell played the part to the hilt.



"facts are stupid things" Ronald Reagan

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I don't agree. Powell is the perfect Marlowe because he is an ordinary man doing his best - the embodiment of Chandler's good man who must go down the mean streets. Bogart is the better actor, but you just never believe he won't win every fight and get the girl.

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Powell's paunchy, doughy Marlowe spouts the tough talk but is less intimidating than wife June Allyson in Little Women. He spends much of the movie regaining consciousness from either getting knocked out from behind or being given hallucinogenic drugs. The first time, someone somehow sneaks up behind him on a dark deserted road in the middle of nowhere and conks him on the coconut. When he awakens, his client is dead (no surprise). What a Sad Sack!

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Powell's paunchy, doughy Marlowe spouts the tough talk but is less intimidating than wife June Allyson in Little Women. He spends much of the movie regaining consciousness from either getting knocked out from behind or being given hallucinogenic drugs. The first time, someone somehow sneaks up behind him on a dark deserted road in the middle of nowhere and conks him on the coconut. When he awakens, his client is dead (no surprise). What a Sad Sack!


Movies where the hero can "open a can of [email protected]$$" on each and every opponent are predictable and a dime a dozen; but how about a good guy detective who is sort of an everyman? Who can hold his own, much of the time, but just as often is physically outmatched by muscle-bound thugs -- as MOST men would be!

And there aren't many men who could be a match for Moose Malloy. Marlowe isn't the only character in the movie that Moose mangles or tosses like a rag doll!

You Powell naysayers aren't even granting that his Marlowe shows some resourcefulness in how he manages to make his exodus from his institution / imprisonment, while still in a drug-induced cloud!

"Paunchy" is a bit much in describing the physique of a 40 year old man who isn't overweight. The average man in the 1940's of the same age, height and build as Powell / Marlowe didn't sport a "six-pack;" in fact, the concept of the kind of "perfect male physique" that prevails today, DIDN'T prevail until the last generation or two. And "40" was considered almost over the hill until recent decades.

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Not looking for a superman but more than an everyman. Elliot Gould as Marlowe was no physical specimen, neither was Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes.

Moose didn't just muscle Marlowe but got the drop on him a few times. The lumbering hulk just appeared behind Marlowe who was staring out the window of his office. This happened not once, but twice! Try locking your office door, Philip!

Powell was a hapless victim throughout even in the climactic scene, knocked out (again) and blinded by a gunshot.

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But how did the Marlowe / Moose encounters play out in the book? Didn't the bad guys "have the drop" on Marlowe a few times in the source material, also?

And what about the screenplay and direction? Wasn't Powell playing it as written and directed?

If yes to any or all of the above, I can't fault Dick Powell for the weaknesses you're alleging of him.

One-time Marlowe actor, James Garner, as P.I. Jim Rockford, also took a lot of punishment in nearly every episode of "The Rockford Files" -- and Garner was pretty much football player-size, more physically imposing than Powell.

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Powell's portrayal was well-received by both the critics and the public, which was a boon to the rest of his career. But Raymond Chandler thought his performance was too breezy bordering on comic. More soft than hard boiled.

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I suspect Chandler would have been more pleased by Robert Mitchum's take, except for the fact that Mitchum was now a bit long in the tooth for the remake in the late 1970's.

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"Someone somehow sneaks up behind him on a dark deserted road in the middle of nowhere and conks him on the coconut. When he awakens, his client is dead (no surprise). What a Sad Sack!"

To be fair, that's exactly how it happened in the book as well. Agree about Powell's lack of intimidation though - Marlowe was no superhero and took his share of beatings, but there was a tough presence and physicality to him Powell just never was able to project.



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His role as Marlowe resulted in him being cast as a leading man in dramas and comedies for the rest of his too-short career, including one of his last as debonair, millionaire detective Amos Burke.

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Powell is often the victim because of the script and direction. For most of the film someone is getting the drop on him.

Powell showed in later films such as Rogues Regiment he can be the tough guy rather than a pin cushion.

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I come down on Powell's side.

He was snappy with the one-liners.

As some noted, Marlowe is a bumbler in this one, getting knocked out by a woman who seems to have had no trouble sneaking up on him. She then beats another man to death. Okay--but in the 1975 version Velma hires goons which seems more likely.

But Powell didn't write the script.

It is interesting that in most Marlowe movies Marlowe is something of a bungler who manages to solve the mystery though luck and doggedness rather than either toughness or smarts, with the villain(s) usually done in by other villains.

Bogart in The Big Sleep is the exception, seeming on top of things all the way.

As for Powell, he must have seemed shockingly good to 1944 audiences, used to seeing him as a sappy tenor. Most of the detectives in films had been the elegant William Powell type or character types, like Charlie Chan.

No one had yet played Marlowe. If Powell had any flaw to me, it was that he seemed a bit too elegantly dressed at times for a barely getting by private eye. Those suits looked to have very fancy cuts.

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