Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

“She’s cute — cuter than lace pants.”

Farewell Poster

Synopsis:
Private eye Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) is hired by a hulking ex-con (Jack O’Halloran) to locate his missing girlfriend, Velma.

Genres:

Review:
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)
    Farewell Mitchum
  • Sylvia Miles as Jessie Florian
    Farewell Miles
  • Fine ’40s period detail
    Farewell Sets

Must See?
No, but it’s definitely worth one-time viewing. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Farewell, My Lovely (1975)”

  1. Not a must.

    First off, yes, ouch! – voice-overkill!!! The main problem there is that Mitchum seems to be speaking a lot less of Chandler’s signature language (“She was giving me the kind of look I could fit in my back pocket.”) than the screenwriter’s (“What’s the matter, cathouse got your tongue?”)

    It’s likely that Chandler was just way too ’40s to work faithfully on the screen 30+ years later. Whatever one may think of Altman’s version of ‘The Long Goodbye’, at least a real attempt was made to somehow re-invent Chandler for a modern audience. As well, obviously, a real crack at re-inventing Chandler’s whole genre had just been accomplished (a year before this film) by way of the completely original script for ‘Chinatown’.

    By comparison, ‘F,ML’ just seems as tired as Mitchum’s Marlowe claims to be early on.

    I didn’t start reading Chandler until a few years ago. I started with what may be his best – ‘The Long Goodbye’ – and continued from there to ‘F,ML’. The real fact is that the latter work just isn’t all that great. It’s still Chandler, and there’s still his spark here and there, but the book meanders very much like this film version.

    The movie looks ok in terms of capturing period but, yes, the direction is unimaginative. Generally the actors deliver what little is asked for. Mitchum isn’t bad but has been far better elsewhere. Miles’ Oscar nod is a shock – anyone who has seen her before has seen her here (tho I’ll say she had a lot more punch in her much smaller role in ‘Midnight Cowboy’).

    Admittedly, the film has a nifty finish, as all the ends are tied. But it’s a sluggish route getting to those last five minutes.

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