“She’s cute — cuter than lace pants.”
Private eye Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) is hired by a hulking ex-con (Jack O’Halloran) to locate his missing girlfriend, Velma.
Raymond Chandler’s iconic fictional detective Philip Marlowe has been portrayed by a diverse array of actors over the years, including Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet, 1944), Robert Montgomery (Lady in the Lake, 1947), James Garner (Marlowe, 1969), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye, 1973), and — most famously — Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep, 1946). Sad-eyed Robert Mitchum was the last Hollywood star to be cast as Marlowe, in this and 1978’s The Big Sleep (not a Peary title), and he’s entirely believable as the cynical, wisecracking detective; unfortunately, however, the film itself is merely serviceable, and not one of the more inspired adaptations of Chandler’s work. The primary problem is David Goodman’s well-meaning but overly literal screenplay, which relies far too heavily on Chandler’s original text: entire passages are read aloud as voiceover, which eventually comes across as simply lazy screenwriting. Dick Richards’ rather flat directorial style doesn’t help matters any, either, and — with the exception of Oscar-nominated Sylvia Miles as an alcoholic informant — the supporting players (including stiff Jack O’Halloran in his debut, and Charlotte Rampling unwisely trying to channel Lauren Bacall) fail to leave much of an impression. With that said, there’s plenty of fine period detail throughout, and Mitchum’s performance makes the entire affair worth a look. Chandler fans will certainly want to check it out at least once.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Robert Mitchum as Marlowe (nominated by Peary as one of the best actors of the year in his Alternate Oscars book)
- Sylvia Miles as Jessie Florian
- Fine ’40s period detail
No, but it’s definitely worth one-time viewing. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.