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Daily Dose of Darkness #6: Business is Getting Better (Scene from Murder, My Sweet)

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If Marlowe was really one step ahead he wouldn't have been drugged and held hostage.  

 

Hey, everyone has their "off" days -- no?

Unfortunately this film seems to be full of them for Marlowe and by the end of it he's simply fed up... can't say I blame him ;) 

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Look at Ann Grayle's pose -- a very femme fatale stance. I agree with the comment - Powell probably couldn't resist (after all, the squares look like hop scotch).

 

I found this portion of the podcast (in The Set-Up - Part 4 of 4: Podcast on Murder, My Sweet) to be really fascinating! I think you'll find it very interesting if you have the time to give it a listen. The hosts disagreed slightly which made for a lively discussion on Powell's lithe dance reference here.  

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I’m not completely familiar with the “traditional” detectives, so I wouldn’t be the best authority to contrast this vs. the “new kind” of detective. From the very beginning of the clip, I could immediately tell that even compared to other “new” kinds of detectives, this Phillip Marlowe would be very unique. Unlike Spade (or Mike Hammer and the other Phillip Marlowe from The Big Sleep) Phillip Marlowe describes himself as a “small-time businessman in a very messy business,” someone who “minds his own business” when you can help it, rather than someone who gets a kick out of cheap thrills, beating people up (despite manhandling Ann Grayle), and living on the edge of the law. This is demonstrated as early as the first couple of seconds of the clip.

 

After exiting the elevator, Marlowe attempts to casually slip a pen into the elevator boy’s pocket, but has to fumble around before the item finds its way to its destination. The elevator boy even tosses some “wisecracks” and freshly winks in Marlowe’s direction. Marlowe is bemused (unlike Mark McPherson from Laura) and simply makes his way to his office. Later, Marlowe would describe himself as a “small-time businessman in a very messy business.”

 

However, Marlowe, shockingly, does a 180 after coming across the reporter named Ms. Allison, which he immediately deduces to be a false identity. Marlowe does not try to charm or seduce this woman, revealed to be Ann Grayle, daughter of Mr. Marriott, his deceased client. He proceeds to mock her, manhandle her, and dump out the contents of her purse. Luckily, Ann, despite being outraged, is able to hold her own against the detective, demanding answers of her own.

 

Despite this machismo treatment, the “businessman” in Marlowe comes back again, reminding the audience that Marlowe lacks the omnipotence and omniscience that has largely characterized detectives before (ex: Sherlock Holmes). Not only has that, but he, himself, acknowledged his own limitations (“I’m not always this brilliant… But I’m improving.”) more akin to a protagonist than as a mechanism.

 

Even more surprisingly, Marlowe shows to have a bumbling side to him, faltering when confronted with obvious facts that he, himself, overlooks. For example, Marlowe forgets the possibility of his client, Marriott is married (“Oh yes, of course he would be.“), much less coming to the conclusion that the much sought after jade could belong to Marriott’s wife until Ann points that detail out. Although, it is hard to say whether this Marlowe is very naïve or whether it’s the production code’s influence, which would have Marlowe supposing that Marriott would have to be married, since he has a grown daughter (although his widow was not Ann’s mother).

 

Despite the major differences, Marlowe does share similarities with his other onscreen counterparts. Just like Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon, Marlowe has a code that he lives by. Even if a partner (or in Marlowe’s case, a client) dies, he’ll shoulder the responsibility of finding the killer (or in Marlowe’s words “carrying through with a sale”), making it his personal business.

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From this clip, you can tell that Phillip Marlowe is a different detective than we’re used to.  He is very astute and seems to lure “Miss Allison/Grayle” into a false sense of security by the way he addresses and interacts with her.  It’s almost like he lets her do a bit of questioning before turning the tables on her and letting her know he’s onto her. He cross examines her and gets to her sore spots, which seem to involve her stepmother. Unlike other detectives, he gives her the rope to hang herself with instead of just jumping in and questioning/accusing her from the start. 

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