December 12, 1944 [Murder, My Sweet]

What surprised me most about Murder, My Sweet was not Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe (although that was almost enough of a shock, the little crooner-spooner-in-June-er taking on the big fellow--and not just Marlowe himself, but "Moose" Malloy, "on account-a he's large"), but that the movie knew that Marlowe has a sense of humor--although, come to think of it, having Powell play Marlowe makes absolute sense: as Marlowe narrates his own stories, he relishes his fearless similes, betraying a wit brighter--even, I hazard to add, dizzier--than any other Shamus on the stem. Powell never lets us lose sight of those wise-guy fireworks; his Marlowe is not merely weary of all the hard guys and dolls he has to shoulder past but eager to kid them along, to cast a jaundiced eye--with a glint--over their sloppy mistakes and smug cruelties. So I kept smiling at the movie--even though it was mostly befuddling--in other words, Chandler at his best, interested in leading us through the dark without a firm grip--suspects, leads, and facts slipping away on every page.

So, despite the uncertainties, the recurring pools of blackness into which Marlowe fell, Powell kept moving forward--haphazard but honest about it, managing to both grin and frown at the way things turn out, one random corpse after another, with a kiss from Nulty at the finish.


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