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DICK POWELL'S PHILIP MARLOWE TACKLES 'MURDER, MY SWEET'

Claire Trevor with Dick Powell & Anne Shirley in MURDER, MY SWEET Year: 1944 Rating: ****1/2

"You go barging around without a clear idea of what you're doing," says MURDER MY SWEET good girl Anne Shirley to Dick Powell's loose, congenial, free-form and not particularly tough version of novelist Raymond Chandler's gumshoe private investigator, Philip Marlowe. "Everybody bats you down, smacks you over the head... fills you full of stuff... and you keep right on hitting between tackle and end..." 

And yet, while most think of strong-willed, fully-controlled, woman-loving Humphrey Bogart in Howard Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP to epitomize Chandler's literary turned cinematic snoop, Edward Dmytryk had already directed former romantic comedy song-and-dance-man Powell as Marlowe, more like a staggering kite skidding just above ground, sporadically raked by unpredictable elements in an intense yet affable manner: initially derived from a police hot-spot interrogation frame story, thinking back on the rudimentary job that ignited the nightmare...

Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET

And like all private-eye noir flicks begin with a simple task that escalates into a perpetual, confounding maze, Marlow’s hired by gigantic Mike Mazurski to find “the one who got away,” eventually paired between polar opposite dames, also featuring partial femme fatale Claire Trevor, whose rich husband... and Anne Shirley's nefarious father... drugs the investigator into a proto-psychedelic mind-trip sequence — providing the movie a literally early peak...

And unlike THE BIG SLEEP, especially with Mazurski turning from Marlowe's rudimentary customer into the sophisticated-heavy's henchman — no matter how complicated the plot, MURDER, MY SWEET (smartly re-titled from the novel's melodramatic FAREWELL, MY LOVELY while using brilliantly snappy pulp-narrating dialogue) never loses touch of who, not what, this character-driven noir is about: sublimely wielding Powell as the perfect (yet intentionally imperfect) noir pawn who never overreaches his own story.

Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET
Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET with Mike Mazurki
Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET with Mike Mazurki
Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET with Claire Trevor
Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET with Anne Shirley
Dick Powell in MURDER, MY SWEET
Daun Kennedy in MURDER MY SWEET

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