Philip Marlowe’s big screen debut. A stylish adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely that sees Dick Powell play Marlowe, a private investigator hired by recent parolee ‘Moose’ Malloy, a giant thug played by Mike Mazurki, to find his girl Velma. The trail leads Marlowe to a sham psychic healer played by Otto Kruger, a wealthy mark, and his vampy wife played by Claire Trevor.
This was the novel’s second adaptation. The first being the underwhelming, The Falcon Takes Over which inexplicably transplanted the action to New York, and substituted the Falcon for Marlowe.
This adaptation stays far truer to the source, starting with the setting. Director Edward Dmytryk proffers a Los Angeles cloaked in perpetual night, pierced only by glaring headlights and blazing neon signs. While other films may have done a better job with the Marlowe character, none have surpassed Dmytryk’s preesentation of Chandler’s Los Angeles.
John Paxton’s script structures the film as an oral recitation by Marlowe, affording an outlet for Chandler’s witty first-person narration. Granted, the film slows a bit during an ill-conceived drug sequence, but even this stretch is peppered with Chandler’s snappy dialog.
The supporting cast shines, particularly Mazurki as Moose Unfortunately, Powell isn’t quite right for Marlowe. He has the cynicism down pat, but lacks the physicality. He doesn’t look tough enough. It’s not a deal-breaker, but with the rest of the cast so note-perfect, you can’t help but wish for Bogart.