A Movie A Day: Quint watches MURDER, MY SWEET (1944)
A black pool opened up at my feet... It had no bottom.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
We’re back to noir for a couple flicks, following the unlikely noir star Dick Powell in his turn as Philip Marlowe in 1944’s MURDER, MY SWEET. I say unlikely because the image he has in my mind from the last three AMADs, Busby Berkeley musicals, is very young and carefree. Square even. It’d be like Justin Long doing his thing now and then in 9 years plays a hard-boiled badass and is believable in the role!
MURDER, MY SWEET opens in an interrogation room. Marlowe is getting quizzed and at first I thought he was wearing a blindfold, but it turns out they’re bandages.
This is really smart, actually, because it lets Marlowe tell his story as it unfolds, giving us that traditional private dick noir voiceover.
So, we get a noir tale full of dames, fatales, murder, brutes, coppers, drug-fueled hallucinations, double-crosses, single-crosses and blackjacks to the temple.
The MacGuffin is a missing Jade necklace worth $100,000, but the real drive for Marlowe is figuring out who killed a man who hired him for protection on a payoff run. He figures the man paid him and he didn’t get the job done, so he at least owes him his time in figuring out whodunit.
There are side jobs, seemingly unconnected, that are, of course, connected. A simple giant of a man appropriately named Moose (Mike Mazurki) is looking for a dancer he was in love with. The mastermind uses this to his advantage and fools Moose into being his muscle.
The stand-out sequence in this movie for me was when poor Marlowe is at his lowest. He’s beaten and drugged up with god knows what. Director Edward Dmytryk (THE CAINE MUTINY) really gives us some creepy imagery here… hallucinations of being chased by a man with a hypodermic needle through a series of doors getting smaller and smaller.
It’s a great showcase for Powell as well as Marlowe, through sheer strength of will, battles through the visions and forces himself to get up and essentially walk it off.
A lot of credit needs to go to screenwriter John Paxton (who wrote a future AMAD title CROSSFIRE) for the rapid-fire dialogue and seemingly unending twists and turns. I haven’t read Raymond Chandler’s original story, so I can’t speak to how closely it follows the book, but the movie is well done.
Anne Shirley and Claire Trevor are both beautiful and play the hell out of their roles, Shirley in particular… but I’ve always had a thing for brunettes. Trevor is definitely the more bitchy and noiry of the two, though. She definitely revels in the fatale role, enjoying the manipulation.
Here’s the schedule for the next 7 days:
Tuesday, June 24th: BORN TO KILL (1947)
Wednesday, June 25th: THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
Thursday, June 26th: TORN CURTAIN (1966)
Friday, June 27th: THE LEFT HANDED GUN (1958)
Saturday, June 28th: CALIGULA (1980)
Sunday, June 29th: THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)
Monday, June 30th: THE GOOD FATHER (1987)
Tomorrow we have 1947’s noir BORN TO KILL, following Claire Trevor over. We dip into a real hodgepodge of titles for the next couple of weeks, going from THE SOUND OF MUSIC to CALIGULA… lots of ‘80s dramas, comedies and cult films there, too. See you tomorrow!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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June 24, 2008, 12:14 a.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
...not some Disaster Movie shit.
June 24, 2008, 12:25 a.m. CST
by Det. John Kimble
The Coens always pull from the best sources.
June 24, 2008, 1:24 a.m. CST
cant say much more than that...and quint, i understand never having seen most of the film noir of the 40s and 50s....but caligula, sound of music and the elephant man? thats really weird, especially since for years, sound of music was shown on network tv always around the holidays
June 24, 2008, 2:09 a.m. CST
by Its a LION
I can't wait to see what you think of The Good Father. I loved it. And as we all know, Anthony Hopkins can make a turd watchable, or a good movie great.
June 24, 2008, 3:59 a.m. CST
June 24, 2008, 3:59 a.m. CST
Just because it pisses my wife off so much too/.
June 24, 2008, 5:49 a.m. CST
I'm going to start my own movie review site. Seems like all you gotta do to make one work is see a few Spielberg movies and write about them and VIOLA! How can someone seriously have called themselves a movie reviewer or dare I say a critic and they haven't watched any of the films that are considered canon for most cinephiles? There is simply no excuse for it. I will say that finally watching them is a step in the right direction. But to put yourself in an authority type of position concerning film for so long and then not having taken the time to really view anything older than you are are is just asinine.
June 24, 2008, 8:34 a.m. CST
... with their ridiculously complex plots that always end up not really having anything to do with the real point of the story. Without them, we wouldn't have The Big Lebowski today.
June 24, 2008, 9:05 a.m. CST
Ever!!!!!! I love this movie as much as I love the 39 Steps, and the Lady From Shanghi...
June 24, 2008, 9:06 a.m. CST
Just a little extra trivia, here. The novel's title is "Farewell, My Lovely", but the movie folks were afraid people would assume a movie with that title was a romance, so they went with "Murder, My Sweet". It's hard to fault them for that. It's not like today when we are bombarded with long, plot-spoiling trailers for months in advance, splashed all over TV.<p>Is it Clive Owen who has the rights and wants to make Marlowe movies based on the novels? I'm anxious to see how that turns out. The books do have some more adult things that a movie in 1944 would not have included. If Owen stars, though, I'm a little concerned he'll overdo the "tough guy" angle of Marlowe, not realizing that a lot of the time, it's an act. I've read all of the stories, I think, and he ends up knocked unconscious more times then he throws a punch.
June 24, 2008, 9:10 a.m. CST
Just occurred to me after my Clive Owen comments. He was in Sin City, narrating scenes in psuedo-Marlowe fashion. I realize that Miller was partially inspired by that genre, I'd hate to see Marlowe get Millerized, like may be happening with The Spirit. I actually like these Miller movies, but I'd hate to see every noir-related thing turned into that. How much "black & white & red" cinema can we take?
June 24, 2008, 9:26 a.m. CST
http://tinyurl.com/5jkmyp This is great news, but many of the news stories covering this are calling it a Bogart role, just because Bogart played him once. Philip Marlowe is not a great Bogart role. Bogart plays Bogart in "The Big Sleep." He isn't really Philip Marlowe. There is no difference between Bogart's Marlowe or his Sam Spade. Dick Powell is Philip Marlow (in "Murder My Sweet" from the Raymond Chandler book "Farewell My Lovely.)" Powell embodies the coolness mixed with humility and great cynical smoothness that Raymond Chandler's pages created. But you probably are asking, what the heck I'm talking about. Here's the good news in short form: Indiana Jones, Fletch, Han Solo, James Rockford (from "The Rockford Files"), Easy Rollins (From "Devil in a Blue Dress"), John McClane (from "Die Hard"), actually every cool, self doubting hero who takes a few lumps on the head on his way to the truth is based on Philip Marlowe. Philip Marlowe is the original cynical gumshoe with a voice over telling you his story, while he looks where he shouldn't and gets neck deep into trouble with the "wrong people." Clive Owen is a great actor and if this is done right, Philip Marlowe will be his franchise. Well Done!!
June 24, 2008, 9:39 a.m. CST
He does generally play variations of "himself". I like his Marlowe but it's not exactly like the book. And Marlowe and Spade are not the same character. I've read Maltese Falcon, and in that, Spade is a much more disreputable guy than Marlowe. He's mostly in it for himself, while Marlowe's pretty much always a good guy.<p>Incidentally, while this is a common theme for fanboys like me, Harrison Ford about 20 years ago woulda been a perfect Marlowe. Hell, maybe even 10 years ago. Which may be why he was such a good Indy, as Redbox suggested.
June 24, 2008, 9:41 a.m. CST
The Big Sleep is a good movie, but it does a common thing often done to movies in the 1940s. It adds a musical number. Yes, the main femme fatale in that film ends up singing a song at some club while Marlowe watches approvingly. It's wrong for so many reasons... totally against character, completely made up, etc. This Powell flick didn't stoop to that.
June 24, 2008, 9:50 a.m. CST
is largely the invention of hard boiled noir. Spider-man and Wolverine have aspects of it, Magnum P.I., John Constantine (the real one, from the books not the movie) Hell, Blade Runner could be a Marlowe in the future movie, so Ford was basically already a Marlowe type. For my money, Raymond Chandler beats out Daschel Hammet every time, because his characters are more than just tough guys, they have humor and cynicism. Elmore Leonard is very much the descendant of Chandler.
June 24, 2008, 11:06 a.m. CST
I knew starting this that I was going to catch a lot of shit. I'm sure you, Jethro, would never announce publicly the list of movies you haven't seen. I've never claimed to be an expert on cinema. I didn't spend 4 years in college being told what classics I had to see, I didn't have parents that were huge cinefiles. They loved movies, but in the way most people love movies... they love what they love and almost all of those films are popular.<BR><BR>I've discovered film as I've gone along. It's a bit of an overstatement to say that I've never seen anything older than myself. I've seen tens of thousands of movies, watching around 500 films theatrically every year between regular releases, film festivals, revivals and special events. It's also an overstatement that I put myself in some sort of higher position with my work on this site. I've never claimed to be anything but what I am, a film fan. I've seen many, many, many films of the older era, but there are many more I haven't see (obviously). If you've seen every movie ever made, then I'll be humbled by your greatness. If not, you're in the same boat that I am, just not as publicly.<BR><BR>Soylent, thanks for reading along. I'm having a blast doing this. We're approaching a month I've only seen one film I didn't like (Pocket Money) and even that was an interesting failure.
June 24, 2008, 11:21 a.m. CST
Movies are like music, everyone has volumes of classic shit that they always meant to get to but haven't yet. As a former student of film, I applaud your effort and honesty and I hope it gets more people to watch great films that are usually only watched in snobby film classes. I especially appreciate talking about this film. I may send you a list of suggestions if you don't mind. People who laugh at you because of what you don't know are just bitter that their knowledge hasn't got them farther in life. Cheers!
June 24, 2008, 11:32 a.m. CST
by Chadley BeBay
You are boring, we get it!
June 24, 2008, 11:36 a.m. CST
by Mavra Chang
John Hurt is very obviously paying tribute to Derek Jacobi, who starred with him in "I, Claudius". I realized this after watching a scene in that between the two of them (John Hurt was Caligula and Jacobi was Claudius). In "The ELephant Man", Hurt's Merrick is a dead-on impersonation of Jacobi. It's wonderful.
June 24, 2008, 11:51 a.m. CST
It's apparent you're the boring one for posting in an article that you don't care about. Go back to watching Battlefield Earth and The Mummy movies, douchebucket.
June 24, 2008, 2:26 p.m. CST
...go fuck yourself...
June 24, 2008, 2:49 p.m. CST
by Matthew Martinez
I've got some bad news for you, then. Last I heard, Frank Miller is writing the script for Clive Owen's first outing as Marlowe. It's based on the short story "Trouble Is My Business." I don't really have a problem with this, but if you don't want Marlowe to be "Millerized," it appears you're out of luck.
June 24, 2008, 2:53 p.m. CST
by Matthew Martinez
When it comes to the books, I prefer The Big Sleep to The Maltese Falcon, but when it comes to the films, I feel exactly the opposite. The problem with Hawks's adaptation of The Big Sleep is the fact that it forces a romance into the story where I don't think one really belongs. (It's really difficult to refer to what goes on in Falcon as a romance. Spade is just out to get some tail.) Aside from that, there are some elements that just couldn't be incorporated due to the production code (e.g., the pornography ring). I really hope Clive Owen gets a chance to remake it.
June 24, 2008, 3:16 p.m. CST
Ed taught a popular directing class at USC film school when I went there. He was a tough, highly opinionated guy (he called Hitchcock's directing style "anachronistic") from whom I learned a lot (Ed was big on grammar). Basically, the class was a live version of a commentary track as we'd watch his films. Murder, My Sweet was Ed's big break as a director, and is arguably his best film. He was a fine editor getting his chance to show his stuff as a director and you can see the hunger and creativity of a younger filmmaker at work there; it's really a terrific film and highly influential, oft-imitated. Pop culture homages I've noticed are several Bugs Bunny cartoons, as well as a line in an Elvis Costello song: "A black pool opened up at my feet..." (trivia points to the first geek who can name the song). He lived a controversial life as one of those blacklisted artists who testified a la Elia Kazan, and he worked with legends like Gable, Liz Taylor, Monty Cliff and Bogart. Good to see this, one of his best, getting more exposure.
June 24, 2008, 3:49 p.m. CST
I hate when I'm right about such things. Miller's version's gonna make it all "cool" and over the top, I fear. Maybe at the very least we'll get a full color palette? I always felt Sin City was half-way parodying the genre.
June 24, 2008, 4 p.m. CST
That would have shocked me.
June 24, 2008, 4:28 p.m. CST
Is Miller having fun with the form, of course, but he's very serious about it in the process. You should have seen Miller with Mickey Spillane at ChicagoCon in the mid-'90s. It was as if he'd reached out his hand and touched the face of god.
June 24, 2008, 5:41 p.m. CST
How many festivals? and what is that like 5 movies a day at each festival? Nonfestival viewingwise, are you going to the theater daily? There are only 365 days in a year. On top of that you watch how many movies on DVD annually?
June 24, 2008, 8:34 p.m. CST
It didn't used to be that much, but now that I cover Sundance in January and follow that up with Santa Barbara FF, by the time we're in February I'm already at or over 100 films seen theatrically. Then there's SXSW, AFF, Fantastic Fest, etc. I don't see a movie theatrically every day, but there are weeks where I see 5 or 6 movies a day (my schedule at Sundance).
June 24, 2008, 9:41 p.m. CST
by Ricky Retardo
This was remade in the 1970's as, "Farewell My Lovely." Robert Mitchum played Marlow. The cinematography was by the same guy who did Chinatown. It's a great looking film and Mitchum is terrific. Check it out.
June 25, 2008, 8:40 a.m. CST
I just needed to mention that..
July 5, 2008, 11:02 p.m. CST
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