Philip Marlowe

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Philip Marlowe
Detective Marlowe's pistol.jpg
First appearance"Finger Man" (short story)
The Big Sleep (novel)
Last appearance"The Pencil" (short story)
Poodle Springs (unfinished novel, completed by Robert B. Parker
Created byRaymond Chandler
Portrayed by
In-universe information
OccupationPrivate detective

Philip Marlowe (/ˈmɑːrl/) is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler, who was characteristic of the hardboiled crime fiction genre. The hardboiled crime fiction genre originated in the 1920s, notably in Black Mask magazine, in which Dashiell Hammett's The Continental Op and Sam Spade first appeared. Marlowe first appeared under that name in The Big Sleep, published in 1939. Chandler's early short stories, published in pulp magazines such as Black Mask and Dime Detective, featured similar characters with names like "Carmady" and "John Dalmas", starting in 1933.

Some of those short stories were later combined and expanded into novels featuring Marlowe, a process Chandler called "cannibalizing", which is more commonly known in publishing as a fix-up. When the original stories were republished years later in the short-story collection The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler did not change the names of the protagonists to Philip Marlowe. His first two stories, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot" and "Smart-Aleck Kill" (with a detective named Mallory), were never altered in print but did join the others as Marlowe cases for the television series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Underneath the wisecracking, hard-drinking, tough private eye, Marlowe is quietly contemplative, philosophical and enjoys chess and poetry. While he is not afraid to risk physical harm, he does not dish out violence merely to settle scores. Morally upright, he is not fooled by the genre's usual femmes fatales, such as Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep. Chandler's treatment of the detective novel exhibits an effort to develop the form. His first full-length book, The Big Sleep, was published when Chandler was 51; his last, Playback, was published when he was 70. He created seven novels in the last two decades of his life. An eighth, Poodle Springs, was completed posthumously by Robert B. Parker and published years later.


Explaining the origin of Marlowe's character, Chandler commented, "Marlowe just grew out of the pulps. He was no one person".[1] When creating the character, Chandler had originally intended to call him Mallory; his stories for the Black Mask featured characters that are considered precursors to Marlowe. The emergence of Marlowe coincided with Chandler's transition from writing short stories to novels.[1]

Biographical notes[edit]

Ed Bishop had the title role in BBC Radio's Philip Marlowe radio drama series.

Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler in a series of novels including The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye. Chandler is not consistent as to Marlowe's age. In The Big Sleep, set in 1936, Marlowe's age is given as 33, while in The Long Goodbye (set 14 years later), Marlowe is 42. In a letter to D. J. Ibberson of April 19, 1951, Chandler noted among other things that Marlowe is 38 years old and was born in Santa Rosa, California. He had a couple of years at college and some experience as an investigator for an insurance company and the district attorney's office of Los Angeles County. He was fired from the DA's office for insubordination (or as Marlowe put it, "talking back"). The DA's chief investigator, Bernie Ohls, is a friend and former colleague and a source of information for Marlowe within law enforcement.

Marlowe stands 6 ft (1.8 m) tall. He weighs about 190 lb (86 kg). He is described as having dark hair and a medium heavy build (Farewell, My Lovely); dark brown hair with some grey and brown eyes (The Long Good-bye). Marlowe first lived at the Hobart Arms, on Franklin Avenue near North Kenmore Avenue (in The Big Sleep) but then moved to the Bristol Hotel, where he stayed for about 10 years. By 1950 (in The Long Good-bye) he has rented a house on Yucca Avenue in Laurel Canyon and continued at the same place in early 1952 in Playback, Chandler's last full-length Marlowe novel.

His office, originally on the seventh floor of an unnamed building in 1936, is at #615 on the sixth floor of the Cahuenga Building by March–April 1939 (the date of Farewell, My Lovely), which is on Hollywood Boulevard near Ivar. North Ivar Avenue is between North Cahuenga Boulevard to the west and Vine Street to the east. The office telephone number is GLenview 7537. Marlowe's office is modest and he does not have a secretary (unlike Sam Spade). He generally refuses to take divorce cases.

He drinks whiskey or brandy frequently and in relatively large quantities. For example, in The High Window, he gets out a bottle of Four Roses and pours glasses for him, Det. Lt. Breeze and Spangler. At other times, he is drinking Old Forester, a Kentucky bourbon, "I hung up and fed myself a slug of Old Forester to brace my nerves for the interview. As I was inhaling it I heard her steps tripping along the corridor". (The Little Sister) However, in Playback he orders a double Gibson at a bar while tailing Betty Mayfield. Also, in The Long Good-bye, Terry Lennox and he drink Gimlets; in the same novel he also orders a whiskey sour and drinks Cordon Rouge champagne with Linda Loring.

Marlowe is adept at using liquor to loosen peoples' tongues. An example is in The High Window, when Marlowe finally persuades the detective-lieutenant, whose "solid old face was lined and grey with fatigue", to take a drink "Breeze looked at me very steadily. Then he sighed. Then he picked the glass up and tasted it and sighed again and shook his head sideways with a half smile; the way a man does when you give him a drink and he needs it very badly and it is just right and the first swallow is like a peek into a cleaner, sunnier, brighter world".

He frequently drinks coffee. Eschewing the use of filters (see Farewell, My Lovely), he uses a vacuum coffee maker (see The Long Good-bye, chapter 5). He smokes and prefers Camel cigarettes. At home, he sometimes smokes a pipe. A chess adept, he almost exclusively plays against himself or plays games from books.

Typical of classic private eyes, Marlowe is the eternal bachelor in the novels but in the opening paragraphs of Poodle Springs he has just married Linda Loring, the divorced daughter of press tycoon Harlan Potter. He knows her from The Long Good-bye, where they spent one night together and from Playback, where she, after one and a half years, surprisingly called him from Paris and proposed to him ("I'm asking you to marry me.").

Marlowe bibliography[edit]

Original short stories by Raymond Chandler[edit]

  • Blackmailers Don't Shoot (December 1933, Black Mask; protagonist named Mallory)
  • Smart-Aleck Kill (July 1934, Black Mask; Mallory)
  • Finger Man (October 1934, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Killer in the Rain (January 1935, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Nevada Gas (June 1935, Black Mask)
  • Spanish Blood (November 1935, Black Mask)
  • Guns at Cyrano's (January 1936, Black Mask; Ted Malvern)
  • The Man Who Liked Dogs (March 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Noon Street Nemesis (May 30, 1936, Detective Fiction Weekly; or "Pick-up on Noon Street")
  • Goldfish (June 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • The Curtain (September 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Try the Girl (January 1937, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Mandarin's Jade (November 1937, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • Red Wind (January 1938, Dime Detective: John Dalmas)
  • The King in Yellow (March 1938, Dime Detective)
  • Bay City Blues (June 1938; Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • The Lady in the Lake (January 1939, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • Pearls Are a Nuisance (April 1939, Dime Detective)
  • Trouble Is My Business (August 1939, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • I'll Be Waiting (October 14, 1939, Saturday Evening Post)
  • The Bronze Door (November 1939, Unknown)
  • No Crime in the Mountains (September 1941, Detective Story, John Evans)

Original Philip Marlowe works by Raymond Chandler[edit]

Authorized works by other writers[edit]

Marlowe, as he appeared in volume 9 of Detective Conan
  • El Diez Por Ciento de Vida by Hiber Conteris (Spain, 1985), English translation as Ten Percent of Life by Deborah Bergmann (1987, ISBN 9-780671-634193). Marlowe probes the 1956 "suicide" of a Hollywood literary agent, one of whose clients is Raymond Chandler.
  • Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, ed. Byron Preiss (1988, ISBN 1-59687-847-9; extended edition 1999, ISBN 0-671-03890-7); reprints The Pencil alongside Philip Marlowe stories by other authors:

Authorized novels by other writers[edit]

  • Poodle Springs (1989, ISBN 0-399-13482-4), by Robert B. Parker. An authorized completion of Chandler's unfinished last work; the original text 'The Poodle Springs Story' had been published alongside excerpts from Chandler's letters, notes and essays in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1971), by Dorothy Gardener and Katherine Sorley Walker. New York: Books for Library Press.
  • Perchance to Dream (1991, ISBN 0-399-13580-4), by Robert B. Parker. An authorized sequel to Chandler's The Big Sleep.
  • The Black-Eyed Blonde (2014), by John Banville writing as "Benjamin Black,"[2] is an authorized sequel to The Long Goodbye, and reuses the title of Benjamin M. Schutz's otherwise-unrelated Marlowe story.
  • Only to Sleep (2018), by Lawrence Osborne, finds the elderly Marlowe in Mexico in 1988, investigating the “accidental” swimming death of a debt-ridden con man/developer.
  • The Goodbye Coast (2022), by Joe Ide, a reimagining of the character, set in present day Los Angeles.

Film adaptations[edit]

Trailer for Lady in the Lake (1947)
Photo of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall from the 1946 film ''The Big Sleep''

Radio and television adaptations[edit]



Theater adaptations[edit]

Marlowe has appeared on stage at least twice. An adaptation of The Little Sister in 1978 in Chicago starred Mike Genovese as Marlowe.[6] In 1982, Richard Maher and Roger Michell wrote Private Dick, in which Chandler has lost the manuscript for a novel, and calls in Marlowe to help find it. The production played in London, with Robert Powell as Marlowe.[6]

Video game adaptations[edit]


In 2018 an unauthorized original Philip Marlowe audio fiction, A Man Named Marlowe was produced by The WallBreakers. Set in 1935, the story predates The Big Sleep and tells of a Marlowe run-in with two supposedly dead gunmen from the old west: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

References in other works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lid, R. W. (1969), "Philip Marlowe Speaking", The Kenyon Review, Kenyon College, 31 (2): 153–178, JSTOR 4334891
  2. ^ "Banville to bring back Chandler | the Bookseller".
  3. ^ Hogan, David J. (2013). Film Noir FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Hollywood's Golden Age of Dames, Detectives, and Danger. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 112. ISBN 9781480343054. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
  4. ^ Robert Montgomery Presents: The Big Sleep at IMDb
  5. ^ Philip Marlowe, Private Eye at IMDb
  6. ^ a b Lachman, Marvin (2014). The villainous stage : crime plays on Broadway and in the West End. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9534-4. OCLC 903807427.

External links[edit]