Monday, May 14, 2007

That Marlowe Magic

Here's Bogey playing Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. It's a great picture, although Humphrey Bogart is the last person I would have cast as Marlowe, who I picture as an entirely different guy when I read Raymond Chandler's books.

It doesn't really matter who plays him, I suppose, as long as they try to capture that Marlowe mystique, that Marlowe manner. But to be honest I don't think any actor has quite captured it. My mother-in-law once insisted that Robert Mitchum did, but he was a particular favorite of hers; I have to disagree even with that assessment.

But I'll bet there's a man out there who can capture what Chandler created on the page, that magical Marlowe combination of grit and style. Oddly, one of my favorite Marlowe lines is sort of a throwaway line--it doesn't have anything to do with the plot, but it has everything to do with why I love Marlowe. It's in The Long Goodbye, when a lackey of the gangster Mendy Menendez approaches Marlowe and they have this dialogue:

"In the morning I shaved again and dressed and drove downtown in the usual way and parked in the usual place and if the parking lot attendant happened to know that I was an important public character he did a top job hiding it. I went upstairs and along the corridor and got keys out to unlock my door. A dark smooth-looking guy watched me.

'You Marlowe?'


'Stick around," he said. 'A guy wants to see you.' He unplastered his back from the wall and strolled off languidly."

Marlowe's narration is perfect enough, but it's that quirky "so?" that won me over the first time I read this book. My husband loves it, too, and we say it to each other all the time. It's what I like to think of as the Marlowe attitude, and I've decided to adopt it this Monday as I face the world: my students, my colleagues, etc.

"You didn't get all our research papers graded?"




Erica Ridley said...

"You didn't get all our research papers graded?"

Hehehehee =)

Julia Buckley said...

Yeah, somehow I didn't manage to carry it off. I have to practice my Marlowe.

Erica Ridley said...

Maybe it's the hat. Next time, try wearing the hat. =)

Admin said...

I always wondered if Darren McGavin would have made a good Marlowe. I liked him in the role of Mike Hammer.I didn't like Bogart in the role, because he's not who I saw when I read the books. Sometimes, when an actor isn't what I had imagined when I read a book, I can let it go and enjoy the movie anyhow. But with Bogie, I found it jarring, because the character of Marlowe is such a big part of the plots of the books. Maybe that's why I'm not much for movies these days.

Julia Buckley said...

It really is disconcerting to have people not look the way you picture them. That's why I always wonder, if a character has red hair or something, why they don't just put a red wig on the actor or dye his hair so that at least the readers will recognize this!