Marlowe (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Bogart
Produced by Sidney Beckerman
Gabriel Katzka
Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant
Story by Novel The Little Sister:
Raymond Chandler
Starring James Garner
Gayle Hunnicutt
Carroll O'Connor
Rita Moreno
Bruce Lee
Music by Peter Matz
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Gene Ruggiero
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • September 19, 1969 (1969-09-19) (Germany)
  • October 22, 1969 (1969-10-22) (U.S.)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Marlowe is a 1969 neo-noir film starring James Garner as Raymond Chandler's private detective Philip Marlowe. Directed by Paul Bogart, the film was written by Stirling Silliphant based on Chandler's 1949 novel The Little Sister.

The supporting cast includes Bruce Lee, Gayle Hunnicutt, Rita Moreno, Sharon Farrell, Carroll O'Connor and Jackie Coogan.[1]

The film foreshadowed James Garner's second Los Angeles P.I. character Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. Rita Moreno would also go on to co-star as a recurring character in the series.

Many of the wisecracking Marlowe lines incorporated by Silliphant for this movie were taken directly from Chandler's novel. Silliphant is best known for his Academy Award-winning screenplay for In the Heat of the Night (1967) and creating the television series Route 66 and Naked City.

This movie introduced martial arts legend Bruce Lee to many American film viewers.

The film's title song "Little Sister" (named after the novel from which the film is derived) is provided by the group Orpheus.


Los Angeles private-eye Philip Marlowe is trying to locate the brother of his new client, a Kansas woman named Orfamay Quest. The trail leads to two men who deny any knowledge of the brother's existence. Both are soon killed by an ice pick, so Marlowe deduces that there is much more to this than a simple missing-person case.

Marlowe's path crosses that of a blackmailed movie star, Mavis Wald, and her friend, exotic dancer Dolores ("with an O") Gonzales. A mobster sends Kung Fu expert Winslow Wong to bust up Marlowe's office and warn him off the case, while Lieutenant French also cautions the detective to stay out of the police's way.

Hand-to-hand combat between the martial artist and detective leads to Wong's plummeting to his death off a balcony. Several more die along the way in a case that leads to a final shootout during a striptease.


Critical reception[edit]

The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a mixed review and wrote,

Raymond Chandler's private eye character, Philip Marlowe, is in need of better handling if he is to survive as a screen hero. Marlowe is a plodding, unsure piece of so-called sleuthing in which James Garner can never make up his mind whether to play it for comedy or hardboil. Stirling Silliphant's adaptation of The Little Sister comes out on the confused side, with too much unexplained action...Garner walks through the picture mostly with knotted brow, but Gayle Hunnicutt as the actress is nice to look at toward the end. Rita Moreno as a strip dancer delivers soundly, but a peeler does not a picture make.[2]

Critic Roger Ebert criticized parts of the film in his review, writing,

But [Chandler's] books depend mostly on the texture and style of life in Los Angeles, and on the cynical intelligence of Philip Marlowe. That's probably why Marlowe, the latest movie to be based on a Chandler book, is not very satisfactory. Even though director Paul Bogart shot on location, he has not quite captured the gritty quality of Chandler's LA. And James Garner, the latest Marlowe (after Robert Montgomery, Dick Powell and Humphrey Bogart), is a little too inclined to play for light, wry, James Bond-style laughs...detective movies have got to function at the level of plot, somehow, unless they star Bogart and are written by William Faulkner and just brazen their way through. Marlowe isn't brazen enough. Somewhere about the time when the Chinese martial arts expert wrecks his office (in a very funny scene), we realize Marlowe has lost track of the plot, too.[3]


  1. ^ Marlowe at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Variety. Film review, 1969. Last accessed: February 23, 2008.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, November 25, 1969. Last accessed: February 23, 2008.

External links[edit]