Murder, My Sweet

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For the remake starring Robert Mitchum, see Farewell, My Lovely (1975 film).
Murder, My Sweet
(Farewell, My Lovely)
SweetPoster.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Adrian Scott
Screenplay by John Paxton
Based on Farewell, My Lovely
(1940 novel) 
by Raymond Chandler
Starring Dick Powell
Claire Trevor
Anne Shirley
Narrated by Dick Powell
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Harry J. Wild
Edited by Joseph Noriega
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release dates
  • December 9, 1944 (1944-12-09) (U.S.)[1]
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Murder, My Sweet (released as Farewell, My Lovely in the United Kingdom) is a 1944 American film noir, directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, and Anne Shirley.[2] The film is based on Raymond Chandler's 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely. A second film adaptation of the novel was made in 1975 and released under Chandler's title.

Murder, My Sweet turned out to be Anne Shirley's final film. She retired from acting in 1944 at age 26.

Plot[edit]

Temporarily blinded and blindfolded, private detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) tells police lieutenant Randall (Don Douglas) how he was hired by hulking Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to locate Velma Valento, a former girlfriend, whom Moose lost track of while serving eight years in prison.

Alcoholic widow Jessie Florian (Esther Howard) claims not to know what's become of Velma, who once worked at her husband's club. Marlowe finds a photo and observes from a safe distance as a clearly disturbed Jessie makes a phone call.

The suave Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton) turns up at Marlowe's office, offering $100 if Marlowe will accompany him to a secluded canyon where Marriott is to pay a ransom for some stolen jewels. In the canyon, Marlowe is knocked unconscious. He awakes to find Marriott dead.

Posing as a reporter, Ann Grayle (Anne Shirley) also seeks Marlowe's help. She introduces him to her wealthy, elderly father (Miles Mander), as well as Mr. Grayle's much younger, seductive wife, Helen (Claire Trevor). It turns out Grayle is a collector of rare jade, and Marriott was attempting to get back a piece of it worth $100,000.

Finding out that Marriott had been a patient of Jules Amthor (Otto Kruger), a psychic healer, Marlowe goes to see him. Amthor and his men knock out Marlowe, then hold him hostage for several days while drugging him. After escaping, Marlowe is taken by Ann to her father's beach house. Helen surprises them there. After an angry Ann leaves, Helen kisses Marlowe and attempts to win his trust. Amthor ends up dead, his neck broken by a strong pair of hands. Moose is the likely killer. Upon seeing a photo Marlowe possessed that was supposedly of Velma, Moose denies that it is she.

Back at the beach house, Marlowe meets with Helen. Helen is revealed to be Velma, who had faked the whole setup after being tipped off by Jessie about Moose. Ann and her father arrive, and a jealous Grayle then pulls Marlowe's gun and shoots Helen. Moose breaks in and finds his Velma lying dead. Enraged, Moose lunges for Grayle, who, in turn, shoots in self-defense. Marlowe attempts to intercede as the gun goes off and is blinded by the flash.

At police headquarters, Randall informs the blinded private eye that Moose and Mr. Grayle are both dead after shooting each other. He escorts Marlowe out of the building, while the private eye, who doesn't realize that Ann is also there, overhearing every word, expresses his attraction to her. In the back seat of a taxi cab, a blindfolded Marlowe recognizes her perfume and they kiss.

Cast[edit]

Release and title change[edit]

The film was first screened on December 18, 1944 in Minneapolis, Minnesota with the title Farewell, My Lovely. It opened in New York City, however, on March 8, 1945, as Murder, My Sweet.[3]

Dick Powell was previously known (1930s and early 1940s) for light comedies and musicals, so the casting of him as Chandler's hard-boiled private detective antihero was a surprise to audiences. The studio executives changed the title from Farewell, My Lovely because they believed audiences would think the film was a musical. Powell's performance is much debated by fans of Chandler and film noir; some think it too light and comic; others consider it the best interpretation of Philip Marlowe on film.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

The film's opening scene

Murder, My Sweet is considered one of the best Chandler adaptations. Glenn Erickson, in a recent review of the film, wrote, "Murder, My Sweet remains the purest version of Chandler on film, even if it all seems far too familiar now."[5]

Alison Dalzell, writing for the Edinburgh University Film Society notes, "Of all the adaptations of Chandler novels, this film comes as close as any to matching their stylish first person narrative and has the cinematic skill and bravado of direction to carry it off. Since the '40s countless mystery and neo-noir films have been made in Hollywood and around the world. Murder, My Sweet is what they all aspire to be."[6]

According to film critics Ellen Keneshea and Carl Macek, the picture takes Chandler's novel and transforms it into a "film with a dark ambiance unknown at [the] time." Dymytryk was able to transcend the tough dialogue and mystery film conventions by creating a "cynical vision of society." As such, the film enters the world of film noir.[3]

When the film was released Bosley Crowther, the film critic for The New York Times, appreciated the adaptation of Chandler's novel and lauded the acting, writing, "Practically all of the supporting roles are exceptionally well played, particularly by Mike Mazurki, the former wrestler, as the brutish Moose Malloy; Otto Kruger as Jules Amthor, quack-psychologist and insidious blackmailer; Anne Shirley as an innocent among the wolf pack, and Don Douglas as the police lieutenant. In short, Murder, My Sweet is pulse-quickening entertainment."[7]

The staff at Variety magazine also gave the film kudos, writing, "Murder, My Sweet, a taut thriller about a private detective enmeshed with a gang of blackmailers, is as smart as it is gripping ... Performances are on a par with the production. Dick Powell is a surprise as the hard-boiled copper. The portrayal is potent and convincing. Claire Trevor is as dramatic as the predatory femme, with Anne Shirley in sharp contrast as the soft kid caught in the crossfire."[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Murder, My Sweet won 1946 Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America for:

  • Best Motion Picture
  • John Paxton (screenplay)
  • Raymond Chandler (author)
  • Dick Powell (actor)
  • A special scroll to RKO Pictures[9]

Other versions[edit]

The Chandler novel has been filmed once before, in 1942, as The Falcon Takes Over, directed by Irving Reis, part of a film series which featured George Sanders, as The Falcon.[10] In 1975 the story was remade as Farewell, My Lovely, featuring Robert Mitchum as Marlowe and directed by Dick Richards.[11]

The film version of Murder, My Sweet was dramatized as an hour-long radio play on the June 11, 1945 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater, with Powell and Trevor in their original film roles. In 1948, Hollywood Startime presented a radio version with Powell returning in his role and Mary Astor as the leading lady.[12]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ "Murder, My Sweet: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Murder, My Sweet". NY Times. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  3. ^ a b Silver, Alain and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, cast and crew section of Murder, My Sweet article by Ellen Keneshea and Carl Macek, page 192, 3rd edition, 1992. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
  4. ^ Clute, Shannon and Richard Edwards. Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir, Episode 26: Murder, My Sweet. Last accessed: December 13, 2007.
  5. ^ Erickson, Glenn. DVD Savant Review, film analysis, 2007. Last accessed: December 13, 2007.
  6. ^ Dalzell, Alison. Edinburgh University Film Society, film review. 1997. Last accessed: December 13, 2007.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, March 9, 1945. Last accessed: December 13, 2007.
  8. ^ Variety review of Murder, My Sweet, March 8, 1945.
  9. ^ "Awards" on IMDB.com
  10. ^ The Falcon Takes Over at the Internet Movie Database.
  11. ^ Farewell, My Lovely at the Internet Movie Database.
  12. ^ "Pop Culture 101: Murder, My Sweet". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 

External links[edit]