Avocado Weekly Movie Thread (2/14)

Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread, your place on the Avocado to discuss films with your fellow commenters. Want to make a recommendation? Looking for recommendations? Want to share your opinions of movies, both new and classic? 

It’s February 14th. Do you know what day it is?

That’s right. One day before the release of Marlowe, starring one Liam Neeson as the title character.

Earlier this year, I had a prompt about films that are better than the books. It’s my opinion that no film could ever really capture Raymond Chandler’s prose, which can be effortlessly poetic. Chandler wanted pulp novels to be considered literature as opposed to disposable fare, and a few of his Marlowe novels are considered classics. That doesn’t stop people from trying, though.

The iconic detective has been the subject of several films, a couple of which are considered iconic. Howard Hawks directs Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the classic detective film, The Big Sleep. There are apparently two cuts. The original focused on the detective portion, and was shown mainly to servicemen returning from the War. The update focused on the Bogie/Bacall romance, the hit romantic pairing of the 1940’s. Personally, I think this adaptation is a little neutered. If the Sternwood sisters were as involved as they were in the book, I imagine they’d face the karmic punishment of the Hays Code.

On the other hand, William Faulkner wrote the dang screenplay!

Elliott Gould brings the sense of a man out of time as Marlowe navigates the 70’s in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. (Yet appropriate, as it provides a time capsule into then contemporary LA that the original novels did.) While Marlowe is typically portrayed as noble, Gould plays him more as a guy not wanting to get involved but getting sucked in anyway. That Altman style, where the surrounding noise overcomes the dialogue, is on full display here. Marlowe seems to melt into the sketchy world around him.

Then there are some that are forgotten but are interesting nonetheless. Murder, My Sweet, and adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely, stars Dick Powell (transitioning from a musical comedy man to a tough guy roles). This first ever film adaptation of a Marlowe story is considered, alongside Double Indemnity, to be one of the first noir films. It also includes a surreal drug trip scene, which I thought was novel for 1944. It set the template for what hard-boiled detective movies over the next decade were supposed to look like, complete with hazy nighttime scenes in the woods where anyone could be lurking in the darkness.

The Brasher Doubloon, an adaptation of The High Window, is a fairly standard crime take but features a more athletic Marlowe than typical. Robert Mitchum played Philip Marlowe on two separate occasions (The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely), one of which follows Altman’s lead by transporting Marlowe to the modern day but also changing the setting from Los Angeles to London. Mitchum may have been a little old for the role, but he does project the right world weariness. What was really cast inappropriately was the 1988 1998 HBO TV film Poodle Springs, which had James Caan in the Marlowe role. It wasn’t Caan who was all wrong, as this story is supposed to be about Marlowe retiring to a thinly disguised Palm Springs. It was Dina Meyer, who was playing his wife. Mind you, this was almost 9 years before Meyer would be cast in her role as young fresh-faced Dizzy in the movie Starship Troopers. (EDITORS NOTE: I read the date incorrect and it was a 1998 movie. Meyer is still too young, but … well, she’s still too young.)

Robert Montgomery’s Lady In The Lake is a very strange entry. Montgomery would portray Marlowe in this film… but you wouldn’t know by watching. In Lady In the Lake, Marlowe is hardly on screen. It was the first major film done in first-person. YOU are Philip Marlowe (as stated in the film’s movie poster). Back then, just like today, people thought this was a really weird idea and it was a critical flop.

Then there’s Marlowe, and adaptation of “The Little Sister”, a story based in Hollywood that was partially based on Chandler’s experiences working on Double Indemnity. (The book’s title is referenced in its Bond-esque opening song.) Here, James Garner clashes with Bruce Lee and Rita Moreno. While Garner isn’t usually associated with Marlowe, the film was partially responsible for another detective he would take on a few years later that would take strong inspiration from the character: that of Jim Rockford.

Bonus prompt: Who is the best cinematic Marlowe? Which actor should play Philip Marlowe?