Murder My Sweet (1944) Film Review. B+

DIRECTOR: Edward Dmytryk.
BOTTOM LINE: “Murder, My Sweet” was released under its original book title of “Farewell My Lovely” in the United Kingdom but was retitled to a less mellifluous moniker for its United States release. It was the first film to feature author Raymond Chandler’s primary character, the hard-boiled private detective Philip Marlowe and here, I think, is a good time to dig a little deeper and list those actors who have played Marlowe down through the years:

1944: Dick Powell in “Murder My Sweet/Farewell My Lovely.”

1946: Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep.”

1947: Robert Montgomery in “Lady in the Lake.”

1969: James Garner in “Marlowe”

1973: Elliott Gould in “The Long Goodbye”

1975: Robert Mitchum in “Farewell My Lovely”

Powell is in very good company, and he acquits himself admirably. He also gets props for being the first to play Marlowe and for making a successful transition from Warner Bros. crooner to hard-boiled private dick. It must not have been easy, especially since director Edward Dmytryk’s and screenwriter John Paxton’s plot lines become as confusing as Howard Hawks’s narrative twists in “The Big Sleep.” But while the supporting cast is fine – Esther Howard, Anne Shirley, Claire Trevor, Otto Kruger, Miles Mander and the marvelous Mike Mazurki – there is nothing here to compare with Humphrey Bogarts’s bookstore dalliance with Dorothy Malone in Hawk’s masterpiece. Which brings us to our LGBTQ+ character. His name is Lindsay Marriott, and he is played by character actor Douglas Walton. He only has two scenes before he is horribly dispatched in true Queer fashion. We even sense his Queerness before we set eyes on him – the elevator boy, who has let him up, in advance, to Marlowe’s office, thinks, “He Smells Nice.” And, finally, there he is, mincing around the office in his fabulous overcoat and ascot tie, as nervous as Bette Davis without a cigarette. And despite his protestations, he is clearly being blackmailed to make a money-for-jewels exchange. How sad!
Dmytryk and the film’s producer, Adrian Scott, were part of the Hollywood Ten and spent time in jail for being members of the Communist Party and taking the First Amendment. Blacklisted from working in Hollywood, Dmytryk changed his mind and named names – including that of film director Jules Dassin – and his career recovered. But at what cost? Scott did not name names and moved to England like many in his situation. Anne Shirley, who married Scott and retired from acting following this film, sent him a Dear John Letter asking for a divorce, which she obtained in 1948 after four years of marriage. She lived the rest of her life in Los Angeles.



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