“How do you feel?”
“Like a duck in a shooting gallery.”
When I think of films that are considered Film Noir I think of gritty places and gritty people, night time sleaziness, detectives with bad attitudes, and women with ulterior motives. Not all Noirs have every single one of those elements they either have one or two with a touch of high class glamour. There is just one Noir that I have seen so far in my Classic Hollywood/Film Noir viewings that has all of the characteristics I think of and that film is Murder, My Sweet from 1944.
Detective Philip Marlow (Dick Powell) is being interrogated with bandages covering his eyes. He was involved in some heavy stuff and the police believe he played a major role in the crimes that were committed. Philip recalls the story that lead to him needing the bandages.
Some time ago Philip was in his office looking out the window at nighttime LA. He turns around to see a large man standing in there who snuck in quiet as a church mouse. The big guy’s name is Moose and he wants to find a girl named Velma who he has not seen in eight years. Philip does not think anything will come of finding the girl since she disappeared so long ago but he tags along with Moose to the last place he saw her. Eight years ago Moose left Velma at the night club where she was a dancer. They had been engaged but he was being sent to prison. The night club was turned into a bar. Moose starts asking if anyone has seen Velma and it seems he had been going there quite a lot since everyone is sick of his question and tells him to get out. Philip gets the idea to look up the wife of the former night club owner Mrs. Florian. He finds her in the phonebook and pays her a visit. Mrs. Florian is a raging alcoholic she can barely keep herself up in a chair but she manages to answer some of Philip’s questions about Velma. She goes to a chest and takes out some pictures. Philip notices that she left one photograph in there and it was one of Velma. Mrs. Florian yells out that Velma is dead she died years before. Philip leaves and as he walks past the house he sees in the window Mrs. Florian in a panic calling someone.
From the elevator boy in the building his office is located in, Philip has a man waiting for him in his office when he comes in the following day. The man is Lindsay Marriot and he needs Philip’s help with recovering some jewels that were stolen from his friend. The only reason Philip takes the job is because Marriot is paying him a lot of money. That nigh Philip drives Marriot to deserted place off the roads where the meeting is to take place. Philip gets out of the car and is immediately hit over the head unconscious. When he comes to Marriot has been killed and he sees a girl standing over him asking him if she is alright and then she runs away.
And this begins Philip Marlowe’s adventure into finding some apparently missing very expensive jade jewelry, getting kidnapped and drugged for three days, and being blinded by the flash of a gun going off.
The story gets a little long and complicated so I will spare any confusion and me just getting things wrong. And plus, why would I want to give away how Velma is found? You need something to make you want to watch this film!
Murder, My Sweet was not bad. There were some parts that dragged and made me bored (ADHD is a killer!) but for the most part it was very good Dick Powell was amazing. Before this he had been known as a singer and good boy in musicals in the 1930s. When he went over to RKO they wanted him to do musicals. Powell told the studio he would make musicals but only if he got to do a drama first. Well, Murder, Sweet became a success and Powell was cast in grittier more dramatic roles. This is the Dick Powell I like seeing I am not a fan of his love sick sing dancing little boy roles. From start to finish Murder, My Sweet is gritty and raw and dark. Philip Marlowe is put through the ringer between getting knocked out twice and drugged for three days. None of the characters are really likable including Philip. There is not glitz and glamour to Murder, My Sweet like some other Film Noirs and that to me is what makes it one of the greats of the genre.