Murder, My Sweet / Farewell, My Lovely (1944)

“A black pool opened up at my feet again, and I dived in.”

Murder My Sweet Poster

Synopsis:
Private eye Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is commissioned by a hulking ex-con named Moose (Mike Mazurki) to find his long-lost girlfriend, Velma. Meanwhile, Marlowe is hired to accompany a man (Douglas Walton) as he retrieves a jade necklace stolen from the beautiful wife (Claire Trevor) of an older millionaire (Miles Mander), whose daughter (Anne Shirley) worries her father is being cuckolded.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “film noir classic” — “reputedly [Raymond] Chandler’s favorite adaptation of his novels” — is “director Edward Dmytryk’s best film”. He writes that while the “picture is known for its seedy characters; hard-edged, hyperbolic dialogue and narration; [and] dark, atmospheric photography”, he believes “it’s most significant because it is the one picture to fully exploit the nightmarish elements that are present in good film noir.” To that end, he notes that “because our narrator, Marlowe, spends time recovering from being knocked out and, later, from drugs in his bloodstream, he never has a clear head”, and thus “the dark, smoky world he walks through becomes increasingly surreal, indicating he is in a dream state”. He further notes that “part of the reason we feel nervous for this Marlowe is that we sense he has no more control over his situation than we do when we’re having a nightmare”. Finally, Peary comments on how effectively Powell “projects Marlowe’s vulnerability”, convincingly “making the transition from cheery crooner to hard-boiled detective”; indeed, it’s truly astonishing that this is the same actor who came to fame starring in light-hearted musicals such as 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) (and 1935 and 1937), Dames (1934), and Flirtation Walk (1934).

While the storyline is dense (typical for Chandler) and requires concentration (or perhaps multiple viewings) to fully absorb, I agree with Peary that Murder, My Sweet remains a highly effective, well-acted, atmospheric noir. Powell is a stand-out — but the rest of the supporting cast is excellent as well, most notably the ever-reliable Claire Trevor, “coming across as sexy as Lana Turner”, and Mike Mazurki as “huge ex-con Moose Malloy”. Esther Howard gives a fine “cameo” performance as a boozy informant, remarkably similar to her turn several years later in Born to Kill (1947). Perhaps the true co-star of the show, however, is Harry J. Wild’s cinematography (see stills below), augmented by Vernon L. Walker’s “special effects for the memorable scene in which the drugged Marlowe has hallucinations”. Remade in 1975 as Farewell, My Lovely with Robert Mitchum, but this earlier version is much better.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine performances
    Murder My Sweet Powell
    Murder My Sweet Mazurki
    Murder My Sweet Trevor
  • Harry Wild’s cinematography
    Murder My Sweet Cinematography
    Murder My Sweet Cinematography5
    Murder My Sweet Cinematography4
    Murder My Sweet Cinematography3
  • The creatively filmed nightmare-drug sequence
    Murder My Sweet Nightmare

Must See?
Yes, as a noir classic. Nominated as one of the Best Pictures of the Year by Peary in his Alternate Oscars.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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2 Responses to “Murder, My Sweet / Farewell, My Lovely (1944)”

  1. Agreed, must-see as one of the best in noir. And I’m rather in overall agreement with the assessment given.

    Dmytryk is a director I admire very much. Many of his films – esp. in the first half of his career – are rather strong. As good as ‘Murder, My Sweet’ is (and it’s very good indeed!), I don’t think I’d rate it as Dmytryk’s best. I would most likely argue for ‘Crossfire’ as his standout flick (if I had to choose one).

    The best thing about ‘M,MS’ is, of course, that you can *hear* Raymond Chandler in it significantly. There’s really no other writer quite like Chandler and this film bears that out. ~not only with its dialogue but with its (occasionally very trippy) visuals. Yes, the plot is dense and deliciously so. You can follow it well-enough but the thickness also makes added viewings fun.

    The cast is perfect, everyone is quite strong – with Powell leading the pack in a wonderfully controlled performance. I like Trevor here, even if I might prefer her elsewhere (in things like ‘Born to Kill’ and ‘Key Largo’).

    My rewatch of this was the blu-ray version – which has very nice, sharp detail while it’s punching up the effective photography.

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    A great adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely (1940) but it’s not quite as good as Dick Richards’ Farewell, My Lovely (1975) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

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