I re-watched this a second time last night and had a completely different read of who Philip Marlowe is. The first time I watched it I thought Marlowe was a bit different than Sam Spade; nicer, more respectful, truthful, but gracious. Upon the second viewing I've come to re-interpret Marlowe as possibly more weathered, but still the same hard man as Sam Spade.
I've watched several films noir since this class begun and my perspective on these characters is that when in doubt they are shady. If they seem nice it's usually for manipulation. It was Fritz Lang's 1945 film Scarlet Street that pushed me into this cynical point of view. Edward G. Robinson's Chris seems like such a sweet innocent old man who's getting swindled. Then he takes some action near the end that shows he's no better than Johnny who beat women.
As for Marlowe, I believe he's just been in the business too long. Instead of being a fairly nice guy he knows that pleasantries come with the job and he can get paid a lot faster if he plays nice. When he first enters he scopes this obviously much younger woman from head to toe then proceeds to tell the butler to "ween her."He slips into his devious self for an instant when he see her, then the presents of the butler snaps him back to business. When he's talking to Gen. Sternwood he pauses before speaking a little out of turn about the General's daughters. Again I read this not as him trying to be kind, but as catching himself before he potentially makes his job more difficult. Lastly I thought Marlowe seemed challenging when he reveals he was fired. As if he was saying "I was fired for insubordination, I don't care. Do you want my help or not?" I guess that's film noir. Pretty terrible people who are so interesting to watch.
I'm excited to watch the film in its entirety and see if my opinions change again.