Yes, it's a hot and steamy summer and you may not be thinking about long trench coats and fedoras and foggy evenings lit...just...so, but we have our minds on some film noir classics starring the hard-boiled, hard-drinking, ex-cop private investigator Philip Marlowe.
The fictional P.I. was the literary brainchild of crime novelist Raymond Chandler who just happened to be born on this day some 127 years ago. Chandler found his success as a writer later in life. He was employed at an oil syndicate in Los Angeles where he began in finance as a bookkeeper and eventually became a vice president. When he was let go from the position during the Great Depression he turned to writing to make ends meet, having his first short story, Blackmailers Don't Shoot published in Black Mask magazine in 1933 at the age of 44. His first novel—written in three months, no less—The Big Sleep, which starred Detective Marlowe, was published in 1939 and made into a classic film noir in 1946.
Directed by Howard Hawks, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and with a writing cast that included William Faulkner, The Big Sleep could be nothing short of remarkable.
Bogie wasn't the first Hollywood A-lister to bring Marlowe to life on the big screen. Dick Powell actually did it two years earlier in 1944 in Murder, My Sweet, which was based on the 1940 Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely. Now considered a pinnacle in the film noir genre, Powell was a controversial choice at the time to play Marlowe, as he was known as a lighter and more comedic actor. The New York Times called the film "pulse-quickening entertainment."
Raymond Chandler passed away in 1959, but the character of Philip Marlowe continued to live on. A new generation of fans got to know the private eye when James Garner took on the mantle of the moody detective in 1969's Marlowe. The film also boasts supporting co-stars Bruce Lee, Carroll O'Connor, Jackie Coogan and Rita Moreno.
What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. — Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep