Lady in the Lake (1947)

Lady in the Lake (1947)

“We have a nasty little motto around here: every man has his price.”

Private eye Philip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) is hired by the editor-in-chief (Audrey Totter) of a publishing house to locate the missing wife (Ellay Mort) of her boss (Leon Ames).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Audrey Totter Films
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Robert Montgomery Films

Robert Montgomery’s directorial debut was this decidedly unique attempt to film a Raymond Chandler novel from the perspective of the narrator (Marlowe) — a trick which is widely agreed to not have been all that successful. Indeed, it’s somewhat astonishing how clumsy and distracting this approach is — it’s pretty much impossible to forget about the presence of a camera when being forced to look at the world through the perspective of one.

Perhaps due to logistical constraints, far too many scenes are static, simply showing Marlowe’s conversation partners talking into the camera, most of them over-emoting without subtlety. (Faring particularly poorly is Jayne Meadows as Mildred Haveland, a landlady whose nerves appear to be merely skin-deep.)

The storyline is standard private eye fare, with shady women, belligerent police, a tanned lothario (Dick Simmons):

… fistfights, and plenty of secret identities — but it’s hard to remember much about this flick once it’s done other than the highly experimental way in which it was filmed.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A unique directorial approach

Must See?
No, though of course it’s worth a look as a curio. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


2 thoughts on “Lady in the Lake (1947)

  1. Not must-see.

    Chandler / Marlowe fans would probably object to this film altogether (if they bothered to watch it). This is a particular case in which the book is far superior to the movie (it’s one of my favorites in the Marlowe series).

    As much as I like Montgomery as a performer in general, his directorial choice of the Marlowe POV just doesn’t work (mainly since it draws too much attention to itself) – above that, his one-note delivery as Marlowe tends to just be irritating after awhile (making Marlowe less fun as a character than the way he’s originally written).

    Poor Totter (who is usually more effective) tries her best, and Steve Fisher’s adaptation does have the occasional Chandler-esque zing to it… but read the book instead; it’s sooooo good!

  2. Good for Robert Montgomery to experiment like this. Good cast, especially Audrey Totter – Audrey,as ‘Adrienne Fromsett’, wears a brooch with the intials AF.
    In real life Audrey’s married name was Audrey Fred. She kept the brooch and her granddaughter has it now.
    What a memento!

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