FAREWELL MY LOVELY (director: Dick Richards; screenwriters: from a novel by Raymond Chandler/David Zelag Goodman; cinematographer: John A. Alonzo; editors: Joel Cox/Walter Thompson; music: David Shire; cast: Robert Mitchum (Philip Marlowe), Charlotte Rampling (Helen Grayle), John Ireland (Lt. Nulty), Sylvia Miles (Mrs. Florian), Anthony Zerbe (Larry Brunette), Harry Dean Stanton (Billy Rolfe), Jack O’Halloran (Moose Malloy), Walter McGinn (Tommy Ray), Jim Thompson (Mr. Grayle), John O’Leary (Marriott); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: George Pappas/Jerry Bruckheimer; Artisan Entertainment; 1975)
“The film’s success lies in Mitchum’s hard-boiled portrayal of Marlowe.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Dick Richards brings back to film Raymond Chandler’s pulp novel featuring the hard-nosed honest gumshoe Philip Marlowe. It was previously shown as The Falcon Takes Over (1942) and as Murder, My Sweet (1945). This version is straightforward (not like Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” which poked fun at the film noir moments). It’s filled with nostalgia by way of its smoky, neon 1940s setting as it updates the Marlowe character through the breezy performance of the over-aged (he was 57) Robert Mitchum, but who is nevertheless perfect for the part. Mitchum’s more modern slant might not sit well with purists because Marlowe’s character undergoes some changes; for instance, he takes on a case for the money alone, something he would never have previously done.
The film is set in Los Angeles, 1941, and Joe DiMaggio is chasing the record of hitting in the most consecutive games. Marlowe relates to the Yankee Clipper, goons who have fallen blindly in love, and sexy women who are not bashful about coming on to him. But Marlowe will be disappointed to find out that good things don’t last, as DiMaggio’s streak finally ends at the hands of two mediocre pitchers and, furthermore, that women can be unfaithful and dangerous.
The tale is told in flashback, as Marlowe is picked-up by his old cop friend Lt. Nulty (John Ireland) on orders of the police commissioner and is to be questioned about the seven murders that took place involving him. Marlowe narrates in his unemotional voice, telling how he was framed for the murders.
It begins when Marlowe is hired by a hulking goon called Moose Malloy (Jack O’Halloran, ex-prizefighter), just released after serving a seven year jail sentence for a bank robbery where the money hasn’t been recovered. He’s an ex-con looking to find his missing girlfriend Velma, who worked in Florian’s bar as a dancer. Moose has not seen Velma in the last six years. At the same time, a swishy gent named Marriott hires Marlowe for protection as he attempts to buy back a valuable stolen necklace for Mrs. Helen Grayle (Charlotte Rampling). She’s the wife of an elderly, prominent and powerful judge.
On the necklace job, Marlowe’s beaten unconscious and when he awakens he finds his client’s murdered body next to him. Set up as a patsy, this leads Marlowe to investigate Mrs. Grayle in her mansion to clear his name. Marlowe soon discovers there’s a link to the murder with the missing Velma as he visits Tommy Ray, a trumpet player who knew Velma, and then Marlowe visits an alcoholic ex-chorus girl (Sylvia Miles) who married the now deceased bar owner Florian.
As Marlowe investigates further, he finds himself caught between the beauty (Helen Grayle) and the beast (Moose), as he searches for answers about why dead bodies are showing up around him whenever he pumps someone for info.
After finding there’s a connection between Mrs. Grayle and thug nightclub owner Larry Brunette, Marlowe searches the gangster’s docked gambling boat for Velma.
The film’s success lies in Mitchum’s hard-boiled portrayal of Marlowe, its twisty plot and the moody atmosphere it creates through John A. Alonzo’s photography. Los Angeles looms as a nighttime playground for hoods, beautiful women and suckers ready to be taken by all the glitzy signs leading them astray.
REVIEWED ON 11/21/2004 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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