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

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I don't understand from this why he would be considered a "new" kind of detective ...primarily because I am unfamiliar with the "old" kind of detective... perhaps Robert Keith in Woman on the Run? But as the intro to a film this is formulaic and dull... or has there been too much TV imitation since then?

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Marlowe walks into his office with swagger and confidence , ignoring the elevator man's comments. He gives Ms Allison/Grayle a quick once over and cleverly sizes her up. Besides, she's asking too many questions about a recent jewel heist. The action starts right away. Marlowe locks the door behind him and roughs her up a bit, enough to see the contents of her pocketbook. He substantiates that she is a phony and immediately connects her to the heist and a murder. His conversation with her is sardonic and quick to the point. "I'll just get you in a lot of trouble"  Marlowe fits in with film noir for these reasons and because it is obvious that at this point, that he works alone. He doesn't answer to the police commissioner or District Attorney. He answers to no one.

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I think of Phillip Marlowe as the quintessential noir hero. Marlowe has his own moral code and only answers to himself. He’s a straight shooter and takes pride in his work. When he says he’ll do something, he does it. He sits in his office hoping that he doesn’t have to work. He’s always happy to pick up a little easy money, but he knows there’s no such thing. He is the ultimate reluctant hero, a hallmark of noir films. On the other hand, if someone mistakes his reluctance for apathy, they’re in for a surprise. He’s street smart and he doesn’t like people trying to pull a fast one. He can turn the tables with the ease of a confidence man. In this clip, he doesn’t pull a gun or raise his voice, but he controls the situation. It’s also clear that he’s wise to the ways of the “femme fatale.” 

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9 June 2015

DDD # 6 Farewell My Lovely

 

He seems to be a person fueled by a desire to behave ethically, to put wrongs right,  within a world which sets ethical questions aside in favor of the pursuit  of money/power/safety. He is not naïve.  He seems to be made up of equal parts bitter cynicism and a passion for honor and justice,  private matters that may not involve the police or the judiciary.

 

The moment he knows she is lying,  he  is cloaked in hardness and disdain.  He  only softens slightly when she begins to tell the truth and the atmosphere between them warms.

 

He is in this for the sake of Marriott  and to maintain his personal honor.  He was contracted to “take care” of Marriott. and failed to do so.  He is honor-bound to seek justice for Marriott.  It’s a matter of principle - and that’s all that counts.

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I must say that digesting these daily doses of film noir are quite beneficial to me. Sometimes I see something new, and other times I see something I’ve seen before, but now I see it in a new light. 


In Edward Dmytryk’s ‘Murder, My Sweet’, we see how Dick Powell, in the role of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, a role perhaps more familiarly associated with Humphrey Bogart in John Huston’s ‘The Maltese Falcon’. 


Compared to Bogart’s Marlowe, Powell’s character seems to handle the complexity of Chandler’s character with graceful ease. Although that is not to malign Bogie’s performance, but Powell gives Marlowe a side which shows us the gracefulness, light-heartedness, and wit, which sits opposite the cold and cynical, hard-boiled private detective stereotype. 


Certainly this more multidimensional type of character fits well into the milieu of film noir. I might also be so bold as to suggest that Dick Powell’s portrayal of Philip Marlowe paved the way for other complex characters who seem to play ‘both sides of the street’, like the character Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in NBC TV’s ‘The Blacklist’. 


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Marlowe becomes a new standard of what hard-boiled private detectives should be in film noir. His dialogue is quippy and cynical. He looks for the advantage or competitive edge. He is confidant to the point of conceit. Rules, manners and propriety do not matter to him. 

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Pre-Film Noir detectives solve mysteries. They gather clues and interview the people involved and try to catch them in lies all for the sake of putting together a puzzle, but they tend to be above the criminal element they interact with. Nick Charles has a rapport the criminals, but no one ever accuses him of being one. The police seek his help, and he actively partners with them. 

 

Film Noir detectives are embroiled in the mystery. They use the same techniques as Nick Charles, but they can never count on the police. Often they are at odds with the police often considered a suspect in the crimes they're involved in. I don't see Nick Charles getting rough with a woman to rifle through her purse like Marlowe does in the clip. In the first Thin Man movie, Charles grabs Dorothy Wynant hard enough to hurt her, but that's to take a gun away. Marlowe grabs a woman hard enough to hurt her just because he suspects that she's lying to him and figures the contents of her purse will verify that. That's a line I don't see Nick Charles crossing.

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I love how the man, would not fall victim to the Femme Fatale... He "flipped the script" on her, if you will, by gaining the upper hand, and not falling for the pretty face. He also showed that his hands weren't clean by saying he was out for the kill, but he wasn't able to complete his job, so, he got the information that he needed by being slick, and using slight of hand. Locking the door, have her pull out her information, holding her hands while he checked, and then finally pinning her into a corner, until he got what he wanted. That just adds to the amazing style that is Film Noir. That is amazing. 

This detective refused to fall for the damnsel in distress trick. Maybe, his back story saw a lot of his other P.I. buddies fall for the same thing, and get killed... so, he was already a step ahead. I love the movies! :) 

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What Dick Powell brings to the table making him a new kind of private detective is one who is, unlike most noir gum shoes, he is very smart/knowledgeable over and above being street-wise.  He knew right away that Ann Grayle was not a trustworthy character after she barely spoke two sentences.  Smart because he locked the door right behind her and saw through her guise.  Maybe he's over cautious because his last client was killed right under his nose yet he has a keen sense of loyalty or honor to make it right and solve the case.

 

This kind of detective fits well within the film noir context because he's living in the shady environment of criminals and low-life's putting his expertise up for hire.  So he's a little smarter, better bred than the average dick, there's plenty of room for all types in Noir City. 

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From an earlier post (today, June 9, 2015, 11:54 a.m.) by Noirnado:

Marlowe describing himself from the novel The Long Goodbye. (highley recommend you add it to your summer reading list.)

“I'm a licensed private investigator and have been for quite a while. I'm a lone wolf, unmarried, getting middle-aged, and not rich. I've been in jail more than once and I don't do divorce business. I like liquor and women and chess and a few other things. The cops don't like me too well, but I know a couple I get along with. I'm a native son, born in Santa Rosa, both parents dead, no brothers or sisters, and when I get knocked off in a dark alley sometime, if it happens, as it could to anyone in my business, nobody will feel that the bottom has dropped out of his or her life.”

The Pinkertons and the private detective business in general would make a great research subject. You raise some good points about the Pinkertons. I don't know much more about this subject, but I'm still not convinced that there was never any friction between Pinkerton operatives and other detectives, or between law enforcement and private detectives.

The Pinkertons often acted as hired thugs - in union breaking particularly.  They don't, to my mind, really compare to P.I.s  They were employees of a profit-making business with no particular principals.  They did what they were told to and got paid.

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I must say that digesting these daily doses of film noir are quite beneficial to me. Sometimes I see something new, and other times I see something I’ve seen before, but now I see it in a new light. 

In Edward Dmytryk’s ‘Murder, My Sweet’, we see how Dick Powell, in the role of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, a role perhaps more familiarly associated with Humphrey Bogart in John Huston’s ‘The Maltese Falcon’. 

Compared to Bogart’s Marlowe, Powell’s character seems to handle the complexity of Chandler’s character with graceful ease. Although that is not to malign Bogie’s performance, but Powell gives Marlowe a side which shows us the gracefulness, light-heartedness, and wit, which sits opposite the cold and cynical, hard-boiled private detective stereotype. 

Certainly this more multidimensional type of character fits well into the milieu of film noir. I might also be so bold as to suggest that Dick Powell’s portrayal of Philip Marlowe paved the way for other complex characters who seem to play ‘both sides of the street’, like the character Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in NBC TV’s ‘The Blacklist’.

 

I agree that Powell plays Marlow very differently than Bogart. First, he is more graceful. Second, he doesn't have the raw sexual tension of Bogart. Third, Powell is rough/dangerous/gritty. Maybe Powell's previous parts as a nice guy and singer creates. A softer filter of his performance for me.

 

One thing about the Fil Noir PIs is they don't feel confined by the police, but rather their own code of ethics. Marlow will find his client's killer, because he was paid for a job he didn't perform. This is payback.

 

I don't have cable, so I watched The Pay Off with Lee Tracy. I've never liked Lee Tracy. He's fast talking shyster in his earlier movies, and he has elements of that in this movie. I can't understand why The Pay Off is considered a Film Noir. Tracy plays stupid jokes on the phone-changing his voice to show he isn't in his apartment. People are taken in by that. He doesn't play a hard-boiled detective. He's even stupid when his boss says something that obviously shows him as the crime boss. I didn't appreciate this movie at all.

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This sequence seemed very similar to the opening of the Maltese Falcon.  The elevator operator tells Marlowe there's an attractive woman in his office.  The secretary at Spade and Archer (sorry forgot the name) tells Spade there's an attractive woman wants to see him.

 

Marlowe doesn't believe she's a reporter from the start.  Spade and Archer didn't believe Miss Wonderly.  The believed her hundred dollars.  Granted Marlowe got the fake identity a lot quicker and no one got killed before he did it.

 

Marlowe operates in a shady world but he has a code and wants to stick to it.  Sam Spade had to send his partner's killer away, despite the personal cost because he had a code and had to stick to it.

 

Locking the door.  That was a pretty slick shot.

 

I'm not clear this opening sequence contributed anything not already done in The Maltese Falcon.

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What makes Marlowe different than the who-done-it type detectives of the pre-noir era is he is independent any formal process, procedure or rules.  He is coy and playful with her to set her at ease, and direct and rough when he wants to cut through her act.  His ethics are looser as he locks the door, implying entrapment, but is it for business purposes or pleasure?  He's a no-nonsense guy, direct, cynical and suspicious, and disarms her easily, indicating his experience.  He also gives hints of potential corruptibility, something never seen in Sherlock Holmes. That is, if the right opportunity from the opposite side of the law became available, he gives the impression he would take it.

This shows a prototypical noir relationship, starting with disguises, posing, sexual byplay and acting/disguises between the protagonist and a female - who sometimes turns out to be a partner, and sometimes the femme fatale.

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This detective refused to fall for the damnsel in distress trick. Maybe, his back story saw a lot of his other P.I. buddies fall for the same thing, and get killed... so, he was already a step ahead. I love the movies! :)

 

I agree, he didn't want to become another "Miles Archer" of San Francisco fame. 

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When I think of What he does in the scene he is definitely a new breed of detective. First off, he noticed how well her nails weremanicured and concludes that she is no reporter and has another motive for being in his office. This type of detective is cynical, shrewd, and extremely observant. I will go as far to say that many characters underestimate his abilities. In addition, the female always assume she can use her feminine charm to get over. I have never seen the movie but will be there at 10:30 am.

This class is perfect timing for me. As a teacher, this is the first summer that I am not working and will have tons of free time.

Finally, with film noir, I see that it is always melodrama involving some type of dramatic event that the protagonist is drawn into by some femme fatale, which in turn, is usually to his detriment.

One of the requirements of Melodrama is that the characters are reliably good or bad.  Such is not the case in Film Noir.

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 I don't see Nick Charles getting rough with a woman to rifle through her purse like Marlowe does in the clip. In the first Thin Man movie, Charles grabs Dorothy Wynant hard enough to hurt her, but that's to take a gun away. Marlowe grabs a woman hard enough to hurt her just because he suspects that she's lying to him and figures the contents of her purse will verify that. That's a line I don't see Nick Charles crossing.

 

 

It's true Nick Charles seems to be more sophisticated and debonair than most, but when push came to shove, he had no problem punching out his wife who just happened to be in the line of fire.  What a guy!  

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I just had the same problem. I went to one of the multiple reposts and clicked 'report' underneath it. Then included a short explanation that I had accidentally reposted something three times. When I next came back to the thread there was only my original post. There's nothing we can do, but the TCM moderators seem to be on top of things.

I wish TCM moderators would allow me to post a comment at all.

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I wish TCM moderators would allow me to post a comment at all.

Well, that worked.  Sorry I'm very bitter about the hairy difficulties using this site.

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I wish TCM moderators would allow me to post a comment at all.

Thanks for posting the above,  Others have not been allowed and I'm becoming snippy.

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Marlowe is tough and hard boiled, not fooled by the "prim reporter." He was on her at the start, which was why he locked his door. It takes a rough and tough man to survive in that world.

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Although, to my taste, better played by Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum, the contribution from Philip Marlowe to the film noir lies in your actions, in your cynicism, in its sense of duty according to its own scale of values. In the beginning of Murder My Sweet we see it, quick movements, hard, and without regard to treat a possible suspect. Marlowe is the prototype of the detective hard boiled... In a snippet of "The long Goodbye", it is described thus:

".....I'm a licensed private investigator and have been for quite a while. I'm a lone wolf, unmarried, getting middle-aged, and not rich. I've been in jail more than once and I don't do divorce business. I like liquor and women and chess and a few other things. The cops don't like me too well, but I know a couple I get along with. I'm a native son, born in Santa Rosa, both parents dead, no brothers or sisters, and when I get knocked off in a dark alley sometime, if it happens, as it could to anyone in my business, and to plenty of people in any business or no business at all these days, nobody will feel that the bottom has dropped out of his or her life."

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Pre-Film Noir detectives solve mysteries. They gather clues and interview the people involved and try to catch them in lies all for the sake of putting together a puzzle, but they tend to be above the criminal element they interact with. Nick Charles has a rapport the criminals, but no one ever accuses him of being one. The police seek his help, and he actively partners with them. 
 
Film Noir detectives are embroiled in the mystery. They use the same techniques as Nick Charles, but they can never count on the police. Often they are at odds with the police often considered a suspect in the crimes they're involved in. I don't see Nick Charles getting rough with a woman to rifle through her purse like Marlowe does in the clip. In the first Thin Man movie, Charles grabs Dorothy Wynant hard enough to hurt her, but that's to take a gun away. Marlowe grabs a woman hard enough to hurt her just because he suspects that she's lying to him and figures the contents of her purse will verify that. That's a line I don't see Nick Charles crossing.

 

I'm really glad I'm not the only one who thought how much of a contrast Philip Marlowe is to Nick Charles. Charles is always drinking on screen, and he's the lovable but sharp, witty detective who loves an elaborate unveiling of the "whodunit." Marlowe is so much more serious and to the point. He's also sharp and witty, but there's nothing that shouts lovable about him in this scene. 

 

I completely agree with you about the difference in how Charles and Marlowe get physical. Charles did end up punching his wife to get her out of the line of fire, but that whole scene had more of a comedic undertone than this one. The whole Thin Man film series is so much more comedic than the portrayals of Chandler's Philip Marlowe on screen, no matter if it's it's Dick Powell or Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum. It's like comparing apples and oranges; Charles and Marlowe are definitely both detectives, but they are most definitely not the same kind. 

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Marlowe fits well into the noir context because he resembles the category itself. The audience doesn't know right off this is good or bad, on it's way up or on it's way down; what we do know is that it's intense, not afraid to play dirty, and that we'll have to watch very closely to see what happens next.

 

Additionally, Marlowe, and other detectives like him, let the audience explore both sides of humanity, the dark and the light, by standing squarely in the middle of it and interacting with both sides.

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Dick Powell brings an edge of danger to Philip Marlowe. He smart, savvy and operates in a slightly gray area. While he may deal in some sordid business, he still has a code he follows. When he says that he charged his client $100 to take care of him and failed he wants to find out what happened. He states that he's a "small businessman in a very messy business but I like to follow through on a sale", which indicates he doesn't like leaving any unfinished business. He also shows that he can see through phonies, when he asks her if she does her own typing. He's well dressed but there's a hint of him knowing how to take care of himself and not being above roughing someone up, male or female, to get to the truth. The character is very different from the "drawing room detective" type character such as Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. While he does work with the police, he doesn't operate under their restrictions and without the bureaucracy. 

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