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

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Marlowe is a seasoned detective and he knows that reporters don't just show up, he plays the game and then springs the trap.  However, he is not totally gun shy of Grayle, as a matter of fact her looks and attitude set her apart for him. He is intrigued with her and her story, otherwise he would have ushered her out the door within a minute.  

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there seems to be a hint of flirtation between the two. he might be doing his job, but Marlowe also can't keep his eyes off a pretty woman. 

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Dick Powell was great in this film. It finally gave him a chance to show off his acting chops!

 

I love this scene, because Marlowe obviously will do whatever it takes to get answers. Love the way he dumps Ann Gayle's purse contents on the desk. He has a refreshingly hard-edged attitude. Awesome stuff! :)

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I agree with what dan_quiterio said,

 

"This type of detective works within the context of film noir because it adds to the grit and darkness already demonstrated within the genre/style as a result of unorthodox camera angles, lighting, etc. This type of detective promises to take the audience on a thrill ride, and the sights along the way may not be so pretty."

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This scene from Murder, My Sweet demonstrates Frank's theories about the characters of the private detective in film noir. Marlow seems to be agreeable at first, but suddenly his attitude become adbrasive when he dumps the contents of the woman's pocket book on his desk.  There is not much warmth or hint of relationship between the two. Marlow is a ice cold towards her and is only interested in talking to her as long as she provides facts to him.  His behavior goes from bad to worse as he locks his office door preventing her from leaving and grills her about her parents and the jade. Examples of Frank's theory that we see a detective protagonists more interested in how he acts rather than what he says.

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I think the rough and dark character of the hard boiled detective is another facet of what makes a film a noire film. Marlowe's character is suspicious of everyone and evokes that same feeling of dread and suspense as the eery song of the children in M or the opening monolog of Laura.

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Marlowe is quick and straightforward. He sizes up the situation and finds out the woman`s id with a twist of the wrist. She keeps talking, but Marlowe can out talk her. The scene quickly shows that he is the protagonist who will not be afraid to get the job done.

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

 

The character of Philip Marlowe is the fast talking and hard to fool. When the character checked the hands of the female character to validate her story of what she did for a living thus confirming that he cannot be fooled.

 

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

 

The private detective fits well into the film noir context because of the flaw of not only the other characters but also in some cases the character of the detective.  Furthermore, the character of the detective has a snappy wit along with an inner sense of intuition.

 

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

 

The scene can be considered an important contribution to the film noir style because the scene foreshadows the conflict within the film.  There is a detective who encounters a character who does not like her family and eventually, the detective and you the viewer will be drawn into the conflict.

 

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The detectives´ action is fast, on the point. He colors his proceedings with witty cynical remarks and is rough and sly if "needed". He uses body language to get in command. The camera accentuates this. A noir character.The setting is scaled down, common place. It is a joy to watch the female character change expressions and moods as fast as she does.

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I think this kind of detective fits in well with film noir because he'll do what he needs to do to get the information he needs. Every character is usually holding something back in these films so it requires the detective to be a little more forceful and forward in getting what he wants. Plus, I think it makes for a better detective. If I hired a detective, I think I'd want him to be like a film noir detective instead of a by-the-books detective.

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Powell's Philip Marlowe exudes and comports himself very differently from private detectives in past works through his fast talking, sexualized bravado. He always carries himself as though (and probably is) one step ahead of the cat-mouse game. His unabashed forwardness, falling on sexual lines, exemplifies the new detective of 40s noir: no-nonsense macho whose actions are questionable and thus, he is willing to take morally ambiguous steps to get to where he needs to go or to solve the crime. This detective model contributes to one of the most significant characteristics of the Film Noir style/genre/movement: a morally ambiguous male protagonist who, despite his controversial methods, evokes allure and intrigue on the part of the viewer. You root for a man who is not the beacon of hope or the unyielding, forthright moral compass, but a deeply complex man who is like the rest of us: self motivated yet compelled to do the greater good, in some form or fashion or at least...eventually. He is neither completely good or completely bad. He walks shakily in the middle of the road and is always on the verge of honor OR criminality. 

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I think Powell is a good Marlowe because of his snappy delivery. He also had the sense not to mess with Mike Mazurki who's looking for his Velma.

 

The best Marlowe is Robert Mitchum who reprised this role in 1975's Farewell My Lovely. I consider him the best gumshoe actor in film history. The right combination of toughness and size.

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Marlowe uses words just like he would use his fists: to pummel and corner his opponent. The exchanges are fast, and I detect a few instances where Marlowe is taken aback by her answers; uncertain whether she is telling bald lies or half-truths. He is committed to his client's assignment. I do think that Marlowe was much more hand happy with women and thought twice with men.

 

Although Raymond Chandler was pleased with Bogart as Marlowe, he wrote in his letters that he Powell, an actor known for musicals at Warner, best conveyed Marlowe on the screen.

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Going only off the scene (haven't watched this movie -- I don't remember) he's not going to let anyone get one over on him, Even if it is a girl. He's slick and knows the games people play -- he's not going for it. He baited her now he wants a piece (Jade).

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I enjoy this scene... no fluff.  As a private detective Marlowe is automatically suspicious of everyone...he's quick...Marlowe doesn't mince words...no greetings...no introductions...a perfect start to an interesting drama.

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Detective Marlowe is a pretty interesting character and an all around slick guy. I feel this noir protagonist is very well rounded character and he knows what is coming which shows that as a private eye he knows people and their actions very well. The way he was a bit jumpy in the beginning had me questioning his motives but wow! That was quiet intense. The way he was holding the key in his hand tauntingly- ahmazing! He is an important addition to the noir hero as it seems he does not trust anyone nor does he let them get close to him. This scene is sure to engage audience from the very start. 

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In the scene from “Murder, My Sweet” under review, I believe that it may be fair to say as Nino Frank asserts, “…the essential question is no longer 'who-done-it?' but how does this protagonist act?" (Quoted from Silver and Ursini, Film Noir Reader 2, page 16). Although here we are not a witness to the entire motion picture, it may be possible to reasonably infer from this excerpt (induction {!?} as opposed to deduction as per Mr. Holmes et al) an agreement with Nino Frank.

 

I suppose, for one seeing this scene from Murder My Sweet in 1944, the response would be one of a kind of shock at the aggressive (“hard-boiled” ) behavior of private detective Phillip Marlowe (played by Dick Powell) toward Ann Grayle (played by Anne Shirley). Compare this with a more “urbane” detective, at least as depicted in some detective films in the 1930’s, such as Nick Charles (played by William Powell) in “The Thin Man” (1934).

 

Nick Charles figures out who the murderer is and he is revealed by Charles in a final scene replete with the different suspects—an example of the old style mystery story rendered on film. “The Thin Man” was a whodunit, even though it was based on a novel by none other than Dashiell Hammett himself, the author of “The Maltese Falcon”. “The Thin Man” was also accented strongly by a comedic nature. There is nothing in the goings on to laugh at in “Murder, My Sweet”.

 

It may be well to mention and compare in this context, the characterization in film to the literary terms of “flat” and “round” characters. A flat character is more or less two-dimensional without any change in development—actions of such characters are predictable. A round character possesses, I guess one could say, a “soul” that can change or develop as the story progresses. The actions of a round character are not always predictable, and the reader is open to shocks and surprises and sometimes catharsis and relief. Perhaps it is fair to say that Nick Charles is flat or two-dimensional, and Philip Marlowe is round or three-dimensional.

 

In “Murder My Sweet”, Phillip Marlowe is not just a “thinking machine” or a mechanism that Nino Frank referred to in his article, “A New Kind of Police Drama: the Criminal Adventure” (translated from the French and appearing in Film Noir Reader 2 Alain Silver, James Ursini eds., page 16). Frank believes the protagonist in “Murder My Sweet” to be “true to life”.

 

For example, in the scene from “Murder My Sweet” under review, there is the following salient sequence in the dialog.

 

Ann Grayle:  Mr. Marlowe, I'm Miss Allison, The Post. The police aren't being helpful on the Marriott case. I wonder...

 

Marlowe:  How did you know about me?

 

Ann Grayle:  I have friends at the City Hall, naturally. That's my business.

 

Marlowe:  I'd just get you in a lot of trouble. (He turns from her and is about to go into his private office.)

 

Ann Grayle:  Did Marriott tell you who owned the jade he was buying back?

They'll never know where I heard it, but if I know something... I'll be in a much better bargaining position down there.

 

Now there is a dramatic shift or change in Marlowe’s thinking about this young woman. He has cause to reject her innocence.

By the look of Marlowe’s facial expression as he looks closely at her after her slip about the jade is a noirish touch, I think.

 

Marlowe:  Come in, Miss Allison. Have a seat.

 

Marlowe locks the door after she enters, gets tough with her, and grills her about the jade.

 

Later in the same scene, Marlowe’s dialog is revealing:

 

Marlowe:  I'm interested in the jade, now that I know about it...

because I'd like to know who besides me might have killed Marriott. He gave me a hundred bucks to take care of him and I didn't. I'm a small businessman in a messy business... but I like to follow through on a sale.

 

Marlowe is reflecting on himself, who he is in the grand scheme of things. He seems to have a conscience.  Kind of existential in a way.  From the dialog we see that he is flawed and is apt to make errors, be misled. Although, on the question of being misled, Nino Frank goes on to say in his famous article:

“It’s not even required to comprehend all the twists and turns of the action in which he is caught up. I would never be able to sum up coherently the sequence of events of which these two films {“The Maltese Falcon” and “Murder, My Sweet” – DB} are composed, only the uncertain psychology of one and the other, at once friend and foe (translated from the French and appearing in Film Noir Reader 2 Alain Silver, James Ursini eds., pp. 16-17).

 

This miasma of plot probably is reflected from the mind of the protagonist (Phillip Marlowe) and therefore it seems we must be caught up in his character and how he acts to fully appreciate the impact of the story.  This is in keeping with a new kind of detective, and in bringing the audience into the uncertainties and uneasiness of being in a film noir.

 

Incidentally, I wouldn’t consider Phillip Marlowe’s treatment of Ann Grayle as misogynistic in the scene under review. It is hard-boiled behavior, but Marlowe seem to draw some line as to how far he should go to handle the young woman with just enough toughness to find out who she is and what she knows.  Also, she, despite her initial ruse, comes across as an honest or “good” person in a world of “more or less venal” characters, to use Jean-Pierre Chartier’s phrase in his 1946 article, “Americans Also Make Noir Films” (Translated from the French in Film Noir Reader 2 Alain Silver, James Ursini eds., page 21).

 

Marlowe:  Then your mother was wearing it the night of the holdup?

Ann Grayle:  She's not my mother.

Marlowe:  Which one sent you here to feel me out?

Ann Grayle:  It was my own brilliant idea.

Marlowe:  Before I see the police,

I think I'll have a talk with your father...and your father's wife.

 

I believe that Marlowe considered her as a decent young woman impacted by the shady and evil confusion caused by these "jaded" characters.

 

I guess, if Nino Frank is correct, the misogyny is reserved to be enacted upon the character of Helen Grayle (played by Claire Trevor). I have no judgement on this until I see the screening of the film again.

 

Thank you.

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Marlow doesn’t play around with anyone. The way he looked at the  elevator person who tried to joke with him about a women being in his office. The look he gave the elevator guy was priceless.  

He was upset about  not protecting Merritt  so the  woman didn’t have a chance from the beginning. He saw through her immediately, and grew impatient with her because she tried to  put one over on him. 

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This detective is one step ahead of this imposter. Seeing that they can help each other he negotiates solving the case. The usual film noir business starts out as classy lady tries to get over on street wise guy. They end up working together & solving a mystery & possibly falling in love.

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This version of a detective is classic.  No humor, to the point, sarcastic, one step ahead of everyone and only thinking the worst about anyone he encounters.  He has the crime figured out but he has to figure out a way to make it stick.  He saves the day but he knew he was going to all along.  He is probably perpetually disgusted with everyone that can't keep up with him, too. 

 

I love that.

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I think that Marlowe is a perfect example of the noir detective because he is cunning, and he uses it to his advantage in this clip. He is not going to have the wool pulled over his eyes; he recognizes the woman in his office as an imposter immediately and he plays along with her charade no longer than absolutely necessary. Charming with a bite, Marlowe uses words like mobsters would use guns and as an audience member I do not doubt that he will get whatever information he is in search of.

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I think that Marlowe is a perfect example of the noir detective because he is cunning, and he uses it to his advantage in this clip. He is not going to have the wool pulled over his eyes; he recognizes the woman in his office as an imposter immediately and he plays along with her charade no longer than absolutely necessary. Charming with a bite, Marlowe uses words like mobsters would use guns and as an audience member I do not doubt that he will get whatever information he is in search of.

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This clip shows how a fast-talking, witty detective can be tough without raising his voice. Dick Powell's portrayal of Marlowe seems more elegant and easy-going than the Bogart version. Powell shows style in the way he locks the door and holds the lady's hands while dumping her purse. His body language is smooth and controlled.  One noir characteristic that runs through many movies is the use light and shadows from lettered signs. In this scene the word "Marlowe" in the background is a perfect example.

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Marlowe, although smart does not appear to be the tough type for a detective, His pretty boy looks and quick wit, certainly make him a new type of detective, but I can not help but think of Jack Nickelson or Robert Mitchum as detectives.  However, this is based only on the three minute clip, so therefore I should watch the movie before deciding on his capabilities as the "New" type of detective. 

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I think Powell is a good Marlowe because of his snappy delivery. He also had the sense not to mess with Mike Mazurki who's looking for his Velma.

 

The best Marlowe is Robert Mitchum who reprised this role in 1975's Farewell My Lovely. I consider him the best gumshoe actor in film history. The right combination of toughness and size.

 

It's just like James Bond....everyone has a favorite actor who's played the role. Some people love Sean Connery and others like Roger Moore. Mitchum is one of my favorite actors, but for me, it's Bogart.

 

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