Murder, My Sweet

Edward Dmytryk, USA 1945, 92 minutes

Forget Humphrey Bogart, forget Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell really is Raymond Chandler's gritty, sharp-tongued detective, Phillip Marlowe. This is perhaps surprising considering that he was better known up to this point for playing the juvenile lead in backstage musicals (so much so that Chandler's originally title "Farewell, My Lovely" was dropped for fear of causing disappointment with audiences expecting a romantic comedy). But no, this is the real thing. One of the defining examples of film noir; dark, bleak and alienated with a cast of sordid characters headed by an ambiguous hero.

The complex and intriguing plot finds our hard-boiled detective hired first by ex-con Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to find his former girlfriend Velma, then by the wealthy Mrs Grayle (Claire Trevor) to buy back a valuable jade necklace which has been stolen from her. No one is quite what they seem and nearly everyone is lying to Marlowe but, neither the hoodlums of LA's seedy underworld nor the even more dangerous and unstable members of the fashionable set can deceive him for long. He is bribed, threatened, beaten up and drugged, but is not to be deterred from his pursuit of either case. He finds a web of corruption, blackmail and murder which strangely, though inevitably, tie these disparate worlds and characters together. The super-cool villainy of Claire Trevor is set off perfectly by the tough integrity of Anne Shirley as Marlowe's romantic interest.

Of all the adaptations of Chandler novels, this film comes as close as any to matching their stylish first person narrative and has the cinematic skill and bravado of direction to carry it off. Since the '40s countless mystery and neo-noir films have been made in Hollywood and around the world. Murder, My Sweet is what they all aspire to be.

Review by Alison Dalzell
Taken from EUFS Programme 1997-98