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

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This clip was a surprise for me--i did not anticipate the bad-boy, wise-to sharp character Powell plays. In no time he's got the door locked and Anne's purse tipped out and using the information to leverage what he's after. Hard-boiled indeed!

 

The noir scene is set with the wise-cracking elevator boy--and we want to find out what he means exactly by getting in that office. For Powell's character though its just another day in the "business".

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In the scene we see the quintessential Private Dick's office. The mise en scene will be come cliche with noir and Detective films to this day. We also get to enjoy some good hard boiled slang, delivered with panache by Powell, whose gives Marlow some comic undertones which I really enjoy.

Murder My Sweet is one of my all time favorite noir films. It rates pretty high in many of the elements we've discussed. However, the ending is just a bit to happy for me.

Excellent points. Regarding the "happy ending," that's all Hollywood, wrapping up the story in a neat little package, the guy gets the gal, and they live happily ever after. Chandler's novel, Farewell, My Lovely, has no such happy ending. Marlowe ends up the same way he was in the beginning of the story: alone. The same is true of The Big Sleep, with Marlowe and the older Sternwood daughter Vivian falling in love and riding off into the sunset (so to speak) at the end of the film. In the novel, that does not happen. In fact, I hope we'll talk a lot about The Big Sleep (film), especially the two different versions of it, when they re-shot several scenes and created some new ones in order to highlight Lauren Bacall. In the first version (and you can see them both on most DVD versions of The Big Sleep), Martha Vickers as the younger (and naughtier) daughter, Carmen Sternwood, threatened to steal the show, and that just wouldn't do for the studio bosses' plans for young Lauren Bacall. So they added some scenes and re-shot others to increase Bacall's screen time and to enhance some of the scenes she was in. They had to have Bogart and Bacall fall in love and be part of a happy ending. And by then (1945-46), Bogart was a big star, so he has to "get the girl" in the end. I will say that the "happy endings" in Murder, My Sweet and The Big Sleep are quite well done, and after all that's happened to Marlowe and the women characters throughout the story, the audience thinks they deserve each other (in the good sense).

 

Gilda is like that too--it's really a passionate, tortured love story told through a noirish vehicle, and by the time the "happy ending" occurs in that film, I for one am expecting nothing less. We've taken part in this incredible love/hate intense dynamic going on between Rita Hayworth's Gilda and Glenn Ford's Johnny Farrell--knowing full well that they love each other madly from the moment we see their first encounter in the film--that I think we'd feel cheated if they didn't finally get together--for good--in the end.

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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.

One thing that's a little different--and I think changes the dynamic considerably--is that Marlowe is alone when he meets the woman in his office. He's a loner from the beginning. I don't think Philip Marlowe ever had a partner in any of the Chandler novels.

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From the opening scene of Murder, My Sweet, Detective Marlowe suspects everyone, especially Ann Grayle. He possibly even takes an unconventional approach to his detective work. A great example here would be the immediate locking of his office door behind himself while Ann sits unknowingly, waiting at his desk. Marlowe is snappy in his dialogue, and is quick to call someone's bluff, as he does with Ann.

 

This type of "new detective" is suspecting, and calculated. Marlowe will get the answerers he both wants and needs in a timely fashion. He's determined and willing to go the lengths required. I seriously doubt he would fall prey to a Femme Fatale, as he would most likely envision her as a suspect from the start. Example: Ann Grayle who is indeed a potential Femme Fatale, is grilled by Marlowe after he has proven she isn't who she claimed initially.

 

The elements of Murder, My Sweet contain those of a film noir. However, this time around, the detective is the primary character. Marlowe is investigating a murder. And of course an attractive woman with a false identity waltzes into his office one day, which raises the stakes. Is she really Ann Grayle? Is she one step ahead of Marlowe in planting a false check book? Who knows? With a type of new detective, could also bring a type of new Femme Fatale.

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I think the main reason that makes "Murder, My Sweet" not just a detective story, but a "film noir" type of detective story, is that the portrayal of the detective is very much flesh and blood. Unlike conventional detectives, who are often serious and solely just-seekers, our protagonist in this film walks alone the line and would try anything to reveal the truth. He is a rebel, and his own desires and emotions draw him in dangerous states. He is not an outsider anymore, but a central character in the murder mystery.       

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  • Describe some of the things Marlowe says or does that make him a new kind of private detective?

 

I believe that Marlowe says and does several things that make him a new kind of private detective for the film noir style.

 

First, he doesn’t answer the elevator operator when he asks him “Business is getting better and prettier… Huh?” however he quickly deduces what he means by it.

 

Secondly, when he notices Ann Grayle waiting outside his office, he doesn’t say much about the first few things she says other than “How did you know about me… I’d just get you into a lot of trouble”.

 

Expressing his distrust in his local authority figures.

 

Thirdly, after inviting her into his office, he locks the door behind him then he shakes her down while she is off guard.

 

Then he tells her “I’m not always this brilliant Ms. Grayle, but I’m improving” after he finds out who she really is.

 

Fourth, he quickly gives Ms. Grayle the third degree in a barrage of badgering questions before telling her “I’m just a small businessman in a very messy business, but I like to follow through on a sell”.

 

Then he continues badgering her with harsh questions.

 

I believe that all of these things make him a new kind of private detective because it seems like he tries to be a few steps ahead of everyone else (or other characters) in the story.

 

Instead of just letting the story happen then drawing a conclusion to solve the case latter. 

 

  • Why do you think this kind of private detective fits so well within the film noir context?

 

I believe that this kind of private detective fits so well within the film noir context because this protagonist confronts violence daily and has a cynical view towards pretty much everything in the story.

 

His more cynical or “tougher” attitude can be toward other characters, his environment (or city), authority figures (law enforcement, city officials or the justice system), society as a whole, and even his own emotions as the protagonist of the story (or film).

 

-- In what ways can this scene from Murder, My Sweet be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

I believe that this scene from Murder, My Sweet can be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style because it displays detective Philip Marlowe as a new kind of private detective.

 

From the scene, it seems like his version of the protagonist and private detective for the film noir style is bolder, tougher, more edgy, more cynical, more anti-hero, more focused on personal agendas, and more physically active in the violence of the story.

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There were a couple of things that i felt make Marlowe different from other detectives. I would say that Marlowe comes across as an everyday guy and not a man of a more upper class kind of distinction, like Holmes, for instance. Along those lines, he isn't concerned with decorum or the 'proper' behaviour of a gentleman and doesn't think twice about putting his hands on a woman, or not treating them like feminine flowers. He's a shrewd judge of character and isn't really impressed by connections, or wealth...if anything it makes him more suspicious. He's more of a working class kinda fella than we had seen before this.

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Any tips on getting only the newest comments when you start on the thread?? I have clicked to the very latest page number (having read the earlier pages) but there seem to be repeats from many of the earlier pages that I've read. All good stuff though. Cheers. Email: [...]

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Marlowe seems new because he views himself as a working guy - being a detective is his job.  It's not an intellectual exercise like Sherlock Holmes. He's a tradesman who believes in carrying out his trade to the best of his abilities.

 

What this brings to the noir genre...I don't think we've done a clip yet with a traditional femme fatale.  Bette Davis did kill a man in the opening of The Letter, but this is more what I think of for a femme fatale - someone who the detective is attracted to but isn't sure he can trust and isn't sure if she's the murderer.

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If Noir is famous for cynical, gritty detectives well Marlowe fits the bill perfectly. He was one step ahead and really caught her off guard. The dynamic between the pair will make for a very interesting relationship as the film progresses.

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The "Private Dick" - Tough, suspicious and cynical from the outset. The only way to truth is to assume everyone is lying!

 
 
 
 

 

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Marlowe added an element of danger to his shakedown flip by locking the door & the purse search. Control is his "badge".

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Any tips on getting only the newest comments when you start on the thread?? I have clicked to the very latest page number (having read the earlier pages) but there seem to be repeats from many of the earlier pages that I've read. All good stuff though. Cheers. Email: [...]

 

In case the TCM Moderator hasn't messaged you privately yet, there's a couple tricks I discovered while clicking around here myself.

 

Yes, there is. Follow these tips: when coming to the message boards and looking at the threads, look at the small symbols to the left of the thread titles. If there is a small star, you have posted in that thread and there are no new posts since then. If there is a big star, you have posted and people have posted after you. If there is a small grey circle, you have never posted in that thread. If there is a large grey circle, you have never posted in that thread, but there are new posts since your last visit. Clicking on those icons instead of the thread title will take you immediately to the first comment made since your last visit.

 

Also, as a point of etiquette I 'like' every post I reply to, so the original author knows someone has read their post and there may be something new to read in the replies. If you go up to the notification announcing when someone has liked your comment, you can click on the part of the announcement that says 'a post you made' and that will take you directly to the comment in question.

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As in “M” there is an initial starkness of scene and the shadows. As the credits roll at the start of “Ministry of Fear” all we see is a clock with a pendulum swing reminding of the slow passage of time. In “M” the children mimic a clock as the center child ticks around until she has reached the “out” child not unlike now passed the minute of time.

The clock is metaphorically (and in reality) the slow passage of time. A minute goes by fairly quickly when a person is busy but when left in isolation and quite it can be as slow a glacier. We understand that this man has been waiting for the passage of time as the camera pulls back to reveal him watching the slow methodical swinging of the pendulum. The tension in the man is wound tight not unlike the clock spring releasing a bit as each minute passes.  

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Describe some of the things Marlowe says or does that make him a new kind of private detective?

 

He's a hard boiled detective right out of the pulps, the general quote associated with this type of detective attributed to Dashielle Hammett is  paraphrased as follows: He took detective fiction out of the rose garden and put it back in the streets where it belonged. Hammett also described his protagonist method of solving cases as shaking things up to see what falls out.

 

 

Why do you think this kind of private detective fits so well within the film noir context?

 

It fits well into the hard boiled milieu that the common folk encountered out on the streets. Noir is gritty, convoluted, Black White & shades of Grey. Many citizens were scofflaws during Prohibition, an the Depression broke the American Dream.  Police were more brutal confessions were beaten out of innocent suspects, no ACLU, no Miranda Laws. It was a "dark" time.

 

 

In what ways can this scene from Murder, My Sweet be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

Possibly because it takes women off the pedestal and treats them with an equal footing.

 

 

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Powell's turn as Marlowe fit perfectly into the noir context as relates to hard-boiled stories being made into film. They started with great source material (although they had to change the title because they were afraid "Farewell, My Lovely" would make people think it was a Dick Powell musical, the word murder would change that impression.)He nails the tough talking, tough acting P.I. that will do almost anything for a client, especially one he felt he let down. John Paxton used much of Chandler's clever dialogue, giving us the cynical but basically honest Marlowe. Chandler's Knight Errant on the streets of L.A., doing the job the only way he knows how, driven by his moral code in an amoral city.

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Powell's turn as Marlowe fit perfectly into the noir context as relates to hard-boiled stories being made into film. They started with great source material (although they had to change the title because they were afraid "Farewell, My Lovely" would make people think it was a Dick Powell musical, the word murder would change that impression.)He nails the tough talking, tough acting P.I. that will do almost anything for a client, especially one he felt he let down. John Paxton used much of Chandler's clever dialogue, giving us the cynical but basically honest Marlowe. Chandler's Knight Errant on the streets of L.A., doing the job the only way he knows how, driven by his moral code in an amoral city.

Just a heads up, there is a great version of Farewell My Lovely (1975) starring Noir Icons Robert Mitchum and John Ireland. It's probably the closest version to the novel. Its post Hays Code and pre "PC code" check it out if you can.

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Marlowe is definitely agreesive which he its right perfectly in the film noir genre. He is a perfect example of the hard boiled dectective movies. He speaks his mind and he goes straight to the point which makes him a new kind of detective. In that following scene, he is agreesive, but he does it a very coy way. This type of detective does plays very well in the film noir genre for the simple fact they want answers. They want it quickly and will do anything to solve this case. I think "Murder, My Sweet" is one of the best detective films in this genre. It does contribute to the genre with him trying to figure out who this girl is and why is she is in his office.

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Powell's Marlowe always seemed to be a poor man's Bogart. Powell plays it with less inflection, more monotonic, and with a somewhat inhuman sternness. The dialogue is sensational, but even with lesser scripting, Bogart has a better screen presence. Either hard-boiled detective is a natural component of film noir, as their on-the-fringe jobs and antihero maneuvers suggest.

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I've never seen this film...that noted

 

You can tell from the opening second of the scene that Marlowe is one of those "rough around the edges" detectives that has become synonymous with Noir. The way he disregards the elevator operator and nonchalantly uses his pen, the fact that his office is located in a less than savory building, the way he struts and interacts with Miss Grayle with suspicion and stoicism...all of these factors help illustrate that Marlowe is a different kind of detective. 

 

This kind of detective fits the Noir context so well because the environment Noir is distinctly amoral. Marlowe "knows the score." He doesn't pass judgment on the people he interacts with and he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty as well. All of this is very apparent in his conversation with Miss Grayle. Noir presents us with an environment where people are driven by desire and where everyone gets their hands dirty. What separates a detective like Marlowe from the rest is that he is willing to own up to this fact. 

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Not having seen "Murder, My Sweet", I can only respond to what I've seen in this clip. Frank's article discusses a new kind of private detective as being a protagonist, rather than a "thinking machine", and states, "The essential question is no longer 'who-done-it?' but how does this protagonist act?"

 

Dick Powell's Phillip Marlowe seems to be very sly, savvy, and grounded, while still retaining a sense of humor. He sees through Grayle's lies that she is a reporter right away. At first he tries to ignore her, but when she asks a specific question regarding someone he knows, he gets her into office, with the intention of finding out who she really is. He does this by caressing her hands--points for flattery, "do you do your own typing?"--and thereby lulling her into letting her guard down, and lunging forward to her purse when she wasn't expecting it. He then toys with her as she angrily tries to leave his office. As she turns around and glares at him discovering the door was locked, he grins slyly at her holding up the key. Then pulls the phone towards him indicating he's through playing around, and is prepared to call the police on her. The rest of the scene he interrogates Grayle about a Jade that had been stolen that she had intended to interrogate him about.

 

Powell's Marlowe definitely seems to fall in place with Frank's observations about this "new detective". We know what Marlowe is trying to do in this scene, but it's not half as interesting or entertaining as seeing how he goes about it.

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This film is another of my very favorite noirs.  Marlowe is one of the great detective characters of page and screen, and though Bogie is my main man, I love Powell's take on the role.

This type of private detective fits very well into film noir as an anti-hero.  We're rooting for him to solve the case, but there are some things about him we're not crazy about, too.  The anti-hero's outcome is often one of fate--there are some things he can control, but where the story ends up isn't his to decide.  This makes a detective an ideal main character--this isn't his case, it's someone else's, and it's his job to determine what has already happened and why, and perhaps predict what is to come.  As we find out through the remainder of this film, Marlowe is along for the ride as the other participants play out their conclusions around him.

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A number of bloggers have commented on the detective's cynicism, antiauthoritarianism, or self-interest. I agree with these. He is a precursor, as one of the critics has observed, of the popularity of the anti-hero in film noire.  He's the protagonist, thus we follow him, but his traits are not typically heroic. (For the film scholar Robert Ray, the anti-hero represents a pattern in Hollywood films of the period. Today, cable networks seem to have revived and popularized the character.) 

 

The lift operator's salacious remark casts doubt on the detective's  morality, but so does much of what the detective says and does. In locking the door behind him and Grayle, Marlowe's intentions are not clear. He banters, shares witty remarks, and yet as several bloggers have noted, he is uncivil, contemptuous (about marriage, city hall, Grayle), aggressive--notice how Grayle leans slightly back as Marlowe leans forward. This character has depth, complexity--he is a round character rather than the stock/flat character we might expect to find in the genre. His profession leads him to distrust everyone--because everyone lies, everyone, including the detective, is duplicitous--but then again his experience may have taught him that there is a reason to distrust everyone. Perhaps this film, released in 1944, already senses the transformation that WW II will have on society, social changes that will contribute to the popularity of films noire.

 

The meeting between Grayle and Marlowe is such a convention of noire, in particular the detective's meeting with a lady that has a double identity. Unlike the traditional femme fatale, Grayle's duplicity has been discovered immediately.

 

The lighting in the hall seems to draw from German Expressionism: in particular, the angles and shadows. The close ups of the characters contributes to the claustrophobia that will be part of the style of noire. 

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Like most other films noir, the woman is not to be trusted.  Fim noir says "This is a man's world, and women should be home watching their families". If she has a job as a reporter, she must be after something else. She has to have a different agenda.

Marlowe shows us he's no ordinary detective, by trapping her (physically and mentally) when they get inside his office. He let's her know he's on to her and he is not to be played. Most film noir protaganists, don't find out they've been trapped until it's too late.

Marlowe also shows the audience something. He is holding the 'key' (In plain sight) to any problem he may have. Depending on himself and no one else is the 'key' to life. 

I am also wondering if this is the first film appearance of Marlowe?

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Like most other films noir, the woman is not to be trusted.  Fim noir says "This is a man's world, and women should be home watching their families". If she has a job as a reporter, she must be after something else. She has to have a different agenda.

Marlowe shows us he's no ordinary detective, by trapping her (physically and mentally) when they get inside his office. He let's her know he's on to her and he is not to be played. Most film noir protaganists, don't find out they've been trapped until it's too late.

Marlowe also shows the audience something. He is holding the 'key' (In plain sight) to any problem he may have. Depending on himself and no one else is the 'key' to life. 

I am also wondering if this is the first film appearance of Marlowe?

It's not because she is a woman and a reporter that he behaves that way but it's because he knows she is lying. And who likes to be played by anyone? She actually traps herself by lying to him. He just locks the door so she can't leave before he finds out who she is and what she really wants.

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