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By Steve May 22, 2017
A few weeks ago, we talked about The Long Goodbye. Brilliant -- at least in my opinion. But purists sure disagreed. "We are fedora." film noir fans said.
Well here's a neon-drenched, booze smelling, modern noir that treats Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe exactly as you would have imagined him from reading the books:
Hard to argue with that clip. It's just the first few seconds of the film. I'm happy to say the film holds up to the strong open. Of course it's not as brilliant as Chinatown (released a little more than a year before this one) which dealt with larger issues. In fact it seems downright old fashioned compared side by side. But it's a great film -- and not done with a wink like so many other Chanderesque films of that time. Really.
You'd think Robert Mitchum was a bit too old for the part, but they hit the age question head on in that opening clip. Mitchum's world-weary voice overs and attitude makes you wonder why he didn't play Marlowe in the 40s, 50s and 60s too. Professionally Mitchum would set himself on cruise control not long after this one. But this, The Yakuza and especially the Boston neo-noir The Friends of Eddie Coyle showed Mitchum could really deliver when he wanted to.
In addition to Mitchum, there's Charlotte Rampling as the femme fatale. Rampling is having quite a third act as an actress. Model beautiful in the 1970s she's apparently resisted the urge for plastic surgery and has aged just right. Recently, she was the best part of the unfortunate end of TV's Dexter and played the worlds worst grandma in the haunting film noir I, Anna in 2012. She's quite good in Farewell, My Lovely. Mitchum clashed with the disciplined actress:
"The girl on the picture,"[Mitchum] said, "was Charlotte Rampling. She was the chick who dug S-and-M in 'The Night Porter.' She arrived with an odd entourage, two husbands or something. Or they were friends and she married one of them and he grew a mustache and butched up. She kept exercising her mouth like she was trying to swallow her ear.
"I played her on the right side because she had two great big blackheads on her left ear, and I was afraid they'd spring out and lodge on my lip. There were no tea breaks on THAT set."
Pulp writer Jim Thompson (The Grifters, The Killing, The Getaway) plays Judge Baxter Wilson Grayle in his only film role. Some will recognize John Ireland. Probably known for his westerns, Ireland was the lead in tons of minor noirs like Open Secret and Railroaded!
The most notable supporting actor is Sly Stallone playing a thug (his part is considerably bigger than Arnie's bit in The Long Goodbye).
Sylvia Miles is fantastic in her role too. Check out how sympathetic Mitchum is to the old burlesque dancer. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role.
A few pieces of trivia:
Producers originally wanted Richard Burton for the part of Marlowe, but he was tied up with other work. Mitchum walked off the set (or was fired for drinking) of an Otto Preminger film Rosebud and was quickly snatched up for the role in Farewell, My Lovely.
Mitchum's dark pinstripe suit (with no available backup) was originally made for Victor Mature during the 40s. He hated wearing "Victor Mature's old farted-up suit." Does anyone know what film Mature wore it in?
Although the film took place in the 40s, the sequel The Big Sleep took place in the 70s. And it's horrible. Amazingly, Mitchum would be the first actor to play Marlowe in two films.
The Chandler story was first made into a film as The Falcon Takes Over with George Sanders (but not playing Marlowe but The Falcon). Murder, My Sweet was made shortly after that. Mitchum's recommendation before filming Farewell, My Lovely? "I suggested we buy up the rights to Murder, My Sweet with Dick Powell, re-release it and go to the beach."
Luckily, Mitchum didn't. It a film that's not to be missed. Top shelf Raymond Chandler.
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