Farewell My Lovely (1944)
Marlowe's Private Dick
My throat felt sore, but the fingers feeling it didn't feel anything - Philip Marlowe
If you are a fan of "film noir" and Raymond Chandler stories then I am pretty sure "Farewell My Lovely" or "Murder, My Sweet" as it is also known will score highly, it is dark, convoluted, moody and pretty much what you could ask for from a "film noir" thriller. On the other hand if you watch "Farewell My Lovely" purely as a lover of movies then maybe it doesn't work quite as well. I am in the latter group, I love movies but not a huge "film noir" fan and whilst I can appreciate how good this movie is when it comes to that style it is a bit hard going. I suppose it comes down to the story which is full of characters which come and go and connecting the dots which link them all together can be a bit of a slog.
Private eye Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell - The Bad and the Beautiful) finds himself hired by recently released criminal Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to track down his girlfriend Velma (Claire Trevor - The Desperadoes), who hasn't seen since he was put inside. At the same time Marlowe is hired by Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton) to escort him to a midnight meeting where he is meant to hand something over to some mysterious men. Not only does the Marriott job not go as planned but the work to find Velma proves to be harder than Marlowe anticipated. Not only that the two cases appear to be linked making it even more confusing as Marlowe finds himself in a complex web of lies, bribery and murder.
Right from the start as we witness Philip Marlowe being questioned by the police "Farewell My Lovely" oozes "film noir" especially as we then go back a few days where we have heavy narration not only to explain what is going on but to describe the scene. What follows on from there is the intriguing and complex story which sees Marlowe dealing with two clients whose cases end up intertwining. It is convoluted as we meet a variety of characters as things seem to boil down to a stole jade necklace and various people either wanting it found or for Marlowe to stop prying. And to be honest it is so convoluted as characters come and go as well as Marlowe ending up in a drug fuelled stated that following it can be hard work. It does make sense come the end of the movie as every piece of the jigsaw is put in to place but you need to devote all your attention to follow what is happening.
But the convoluted story is just part of what makes "Farewell My Lovely" such a good movie and the element of style comes back. The first person narration is stunning and with it being a reoccurring theme the quality of the descriptive dialogue is first rate, there are movies which try to do this but few get close to how good this narration is in "Farewell My Lovely". There is also the look and this is a dark movie with very few scenes happening in daylight with many happening in dark rooms. Add the atmosphere of danger, the falling mists as well as the surprising scenes where Marlowe has been drugged and we have a movie which looks the business.
What also is the business is Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe and Powell's own story is part of the reason why "Farewell My Lovely" is a bit special. Powell previous to 1944 had been known for musicals and this was a change for him and he does it so well, delivering the essence of a cynical private eye but one who has a thing for a pretty dame. Powell is not the only good performance as the whole cast be it Claire Trevor as Mrs. Helen Grayle or Mike Mazurki as the brutish Moose Malloy all deliver great characters.
What this all boils down to is that if you like "film noir" then "Farewell My Lovely" is a must but if you are just a fan of movies the convoluted plot can make it hard work to follow. But the pay off is worth it and as an introduction to "film-noir" it is great.
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