Saturday, December 3, 2016

Farewell My Lovely (1975) The Good Detective

This post Hays (Motion Picture Production) Code and pre PC "code" version of Raymond Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely" is probably the closest version to the novel we are going to see, it's firing on all cylinders. It pulls no punches, it's serious, dialog wise, doing justice to the novel.

In the previously adapted for film 1944 version Murder, My Sweet, Dick Powell was great as wisecracking Marlowe, he's pretty much as I pictured him in my mind's eye as I read the book. Mitchum at 58 years, in this film, is just a tad too old to fit the Marlowe of the novel. He's also a tad too iconic, Mitchum is playing Mitchum playing Marlowe, but the script reflects at least this age difference, he's written as an older wiser Marlowe, a weary character who realizes he's over the hump and sort of coasting. This small change becomes very believable as Mitchum settles into the part. He's still the knight of streets but now he creaks and is just a bit more tarnished.

Farewell My Lovely was ably directed by Dick Richards just like an old studio "B" production picture without any noticeable in your face style. The screenplay was written by David Zelag Goodman (Straw Dogs (1971)), and based on Raymond Chandler's 1940 novel of the same name. The gorgeous Cinematography was by John A. Alonzo (Chinatown (1974), Scarface (1983)). All the above combined with an excellent Production Design by Dean Tavoularis, Art Direction by Angelo P. Graham (uncredited) and Set Decoration by Robert Nelson, is what makes this film a true gem. Music was by David Shire (The Conversation (1974), Zodiac (2007)).

Marlowe (Robert Mitchum)

Farewell My Lovely features Robert Mitchum (Film Noir Icon in no less than eight classics) as the definitive private detective Philip Marlowe. The film also has Noir star John Ireland (a vet of at least six classic noirs where he either played the bad guy, the good guy, or the not so bad guy) as Detective Lt. Nulty.

Nulty (John Ireland)

Charlotte Rampling (Angel Heart (1987)) as Femme Fatale Helen Grayle, Sylvia Miles (Murder, Inc. (1960), Naked City (TV Series), Terror in the City (1964), Midnight Cowboy (1969)), as Jessie Halstead Florian, Anthony Zerbe (Naked City (TV Series), Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Laughing Policeman (1973)), as Laird Brunette gangster/gambling ship operator. Harry Dean Stanton (The Wrong Man (1956), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Dillinger (1973), Paris, Texas (1984), Wild at Heart (1990)), as Detective Billy Rolfe LAPD, Jack O'Halloran as Moose Malloy.

Helen Grayle (Charlotte Rampling)

Jesse Florian (Sylvia Miles)

 Laird Brunette (Anthony Zerbe)

Detective Billy Rolfe (Harry Dean Stanton)
The rest of the cast has, Sylvester Stallone (Cop Land (1997)), as Jonnie, Joe Spinell (The Godfather (1972), The Seven-Ups (1973), Taxi Driver (1976)) as Nick, Burton Gilliam as Cowboy. Kate Murtagh (87th Precinct (TV Series)) in a part channeling Hope Emerson, as Frances Amthor, L.A.'s whorehouse madam/drug dealer (Believed they say to be based on Brenda Allen whose arrest in 1948 triggered a scandal that led to the reform of the L.A.P.D.). John O'Leary as Lindsay Marriott, Walter McGinn as Tommy Ray washed up jazz man. Jim Thompson (hardboiled novelist) as Judge Baxter Wilson Grayle, Logan Ramsey (Something Wild (1961), Naked City (TV Series)) as the Police Commissioner, and what was left of Greater Los Angeles of the 1940s.

Jonnie (Sylvester Stallone)  
Nick (Joe Spinell)
Marlowe and Cowboy rt. (Burton Gilliam)
Frances Amthor (Kate Murtagh)
Lindsay Marriott (John O'Leary)
Tommy Ray (Walter McGinn)
Judge Baxter Wilson Grayle (Jim Thompson)
The hardboiled tale starts with Marlowe's smoky voice over as he's looking out the warped glass window of a downtown LA dive hotel. He's holed up there waiting for his case to break.


Philip Marlowe: This past spring was the first that I felt tired and realized I was growing old. Maybe it was the rotten weather we'd had in L.A. Maybe the rotten cases I'd had. Mostly chasing a few missing husbands and then chasing their wives once I found them, in order to get paid. Or maybe it was just the plain fact that I am tired and growing old.

When Detective Lt. Nulty, LAPD arrives at his flop Marlowe begins to lay out the case from the beginning, which we see in an extended flashback.

The Moose (O'Halloran) lt, and Marlowe

After successfully tracking down a wayward teen at a dime a dance hall, he is almost roughed up by The Moose, a giant ex con who did a six year stretch for armed bank robbery. He watched Marlowe deliver the girl to her folks and gets obsessed with having Marlowe find his missing Velma. Moose slips Marlowe a fifty as a retainer. Velma, Moose tells Marlowe was "Cute, cute as lace pants".

It turns out Velma used to be a stripper/B-girl/hooker who worked out of a dump on Central called Florian's. In the time that Moose was in the joint, Mike Florian died and the neighborhood turned black. When Moose and Marlowe get to Florian's, it's in the hood and the clientele is all black. During a tense confrontation, Moose kills Mr. Montgomery, the current owner, and they find out nothing about Velma. Moose scoots, leaving Marlowe to call the cops and deal with Nulty.

After telling the cops the details of what went down at Florian's, Marlowe slips out and spies a fleabag hotel, The Crescent, across the avenue. He crosses the pavement to the sidewalk and up into the hotel lobby.

Philip Marlowe: [voiceover] I sparred with the night clerk for a couple of minutes, but it was like trying to open a sardine can after you broke off the metal lip. There was something about Abraham Lincoln's picture that loosened him up.

Marlowe finds out that Tommy Ray a bandleader, (Tommy Ray and The Sun Rays) who used to work at Florian's has rooms upstairs.

From Tommy, Marlowe finds out Jesse Florian's address, and the tip that a fifth of booze will be his best friend.  Jesse is a bit of an alkie, and Sylvia Miles does an extraordinary portrayal of Jesse that is subtle, touching, and heart wrenchingly sad. After Marlowe plays a little footsie with Jesse, she decides that he's alright and calls Tommy Ray who slips him a picture of Velma from the old days. Only it's a bum steer, flashing the picture at Burly Q's, and agents gets a name, but it isn't Velma, it's a dead end to a catatonic at Camarillo, the State Mental Hospital.

Before the end of the film Marlowe gets his mellon thunked while Lindsay Marriott gets dead on a bungled jewel theft payoff. He gets his noodle wet with a horney Mrs. Grayle, and gets geezed up with junk at Amthor's Hollywood whorehouse.

The film is also a visual treat to Noir Lovers.





Mitchum and Ireland are Noir pros, just the cinematic Film Noir memory that they exude, gives the film natural gravitas. For instance, they didn't have to practice learning how to light, smoke, and hold a cigarette. They've done it most of their lives. Their dangling cigarettes are the real deal, not part of the performance. Ireland is the tired, cynical, conflicted LAPD detective, who is told by the corrupt police commissioner to lay off the case. Mitchum is strong, steady, human, sarcastic, romantic. He displays self depreciating humor, humility, and is doggedly loyal to his friends and clients.

Charlotte Rampling the films Femme Fatale, plays Mrs Grayle as sultry and conniving, she gives off a bit of a Lauren Bacall vibe. She is however the films one false note, she's not quite convincing as an American chippy, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, hell she was born on the wrong side of "the pond", Sturmer, England, and it's just off. Lesley Ann Warren would have been a better choice for the role. We also don't quite get enough of Rampling to get comfortably acquainted with the duality of her character. I would have liked to see some of Moose's flashbacks to his time with Velma Valento, it would have been a nice juxtaposition to Rampling's performance as Mrs. Grayle, and just another plus for the film.

The real revelation in Farewell My Lovely is Jack O'Halloran's Moose Malloy, in this film version Moose actually becomes more than a cartoon bad guy. You really feel sorry for the big lug and the torch he carries for his lost hooker girlfriend. Moose doesn't care that Velma fingered him for the job and took off with the loot. He just wants to be back in that sweet spot. O'Halloran gives off a Laird Cregar vibe, if we had been in a full blown Noir revival both Jack and Sylvia Miles would have been two of the major new stars, out of this cast only Harry Dean Stanton went on to really make a name in Neo Noir. The film also features Sylvester Stallone in one of his first roles.

The Moose

Philip Marlowe: Moose never would have hurt her. It didn't matter to him that she hadn't written in 6 years. It didn't matter that she turned him in for a reward. The big lug loved her... and if he was still alive... it wouldn't matter to him that she'd pumped 3 bullets into him... What a world.

Screencaps are from the ITV Studios DVD. It's the definitive Marlowe in the correct time period 9/10.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thank you for the website. I just saw the movie for the first time in 40+ years last night, and its good to look at these stills while the plot is still fresh in my mind. I wish Turner Classics would put it on, because the narrative should not be interrupted by commercial breaks. A very underrated movie, but thoroughly enjoyable.

  3. who played Tommy Ray's (McGuinn) wife and child?

  4. Love the site. Great descriptions, analysis, screen shots. thnx.
    And hopefully, someone will come up with the names of actors who played Tommy Ray's (McGuinn) wife and child.

  5. Ok, the li'l boy was Andrew Harris. Now who played his mom?