The screen’s first Raymond Chandler adaptation. It takes the setup and principal characters of Chandler’s novel, Farewell, My Lovely, transplants the location to New York City, substitutes gentleman detective Gay Laurence (aka The Falcon), played by George Sanders, for Philip Marlowe, and grafts on a pair of sidekicks. The result underwhelms.
It opens with promise. An uncredited Ward Bond plays Moose Malloy, a hulking escaped convict searching for his girl, Velma. Bond convinces in the role, mixing physicality and psychosis. That said, the popularity of the later adaptation, Murder, My Sweet, places Bond’s performance in Mike Mazurki’s shadow.
Malloy forces his way into a posh nightclub where Velma once worked. A confrontation with the manager leaves said manager with a broken neck. Malloy flees and forces the Falcon’s sidekick Goldie, played by Allen Jenkins, to drive him away. Goldie, terrified, complies.
The script will run this gag of Goldie’s terror of Moose into the ground. Indeed, Jenkins gets almost as much screen time as Sanders, most of it dedicated to shots of him mugging frightened looks into the camera.
Speaking of Sanders, he arrives after the fact and invites himself into the crime scene. He offers little help, but after leaving, he has Jenkins drive him to where he took Malloy, a Brooklyn address.
Brooklyn looks a lot like the California hills, but I digress. They find Malloy, Jenkins does his panicked shtick and Sanders does an unconvincing drunk act.
From here, the film hews to the source novel. A smarmy man ropes Sanders into accompanying him to retrieve a necklace. This leads Sanders to a socialite, a phoney psychic and a nightclub operator. Along the way Sanders picks up another sidekick, this one a plucky, would-be reporter played by Lynn Bari. She seems created to do the actual detective work while Sanders flirts with the socialite and flees the police.
Ah, the police. Rather than the corrupt force present in Chandler’s novel, they’re portrayed as ineffective tag-alongs. James Gleason plays the chief inspector who, despite overseeing all homicide investigations in New York City, has time to stake out the Falcon’s condo for hours with his dim-witted deputy.
Anyway, everything culminates in a lengthy exposition dump from the femme fatale in the film’s closing moments. The script drops the novel’s cynicism and fatalism for a pat blackmail scheme. I suppose that’s fitting, as The Falcon character lacks both edge and wit. He seems more interested in ladies than mysteries. Not a good fit for Chandler’s hard-boiled style.