Marlowe (film)

Marlowe (1969) is a neo-noir drama film directed by Paul Bogart. The mystery film was written by Stirling Silliphant based on Raymond Chandler's 1949 novel The Little Sister. It features James Garner as the author's fictional private detective Philip Marlowe. The supporting cast includes Bruce Lee, Gayle Hunnicutt, Rita Moreno, Carroll O'Connor and Jackie Coogan.

The film foreshadowed James Garner's second Los Angeles P.I. character Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. Many of the wisecracking Marlowe lines written by Silliphant for this movie (quite a few of which were lifted directly from Chandler's novel) could just as easily have come from the mouth of Garner's television private eye Rockford, although Garner played Marlowe as a substantially more serious character.

The movie also introduced martial arts legend Bruce Lee to many American film viewers.


Private-eye Marlowe (Garner) is trying to locate the brother of his client Orfamay Quest (Sharon Farrell). Marlowe follows the trail to two men who deny any knowledge of the brother's existence. Both are soon killed by an ice pick, and Marlowe deduces that there's much more to this than a simple missing-person case.

Marlowe's path crosses that of a blackmailed movie star, Mavis Wald (Gayle Hunnicutt) and her friend, exotic dancer Delores (Rita Moreno). A mobster sends karate expert Winslow Wong (Bruce Lee) to warn Marlowe off the case, while Lt. French (Carroll O'Connor) also cautions the detective to stay out of the police's way.

The bodies pile up by the time Marlowe cracks the case.


Critical reception

The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a mixed review and wrote, "Raymond Chandler's private eye character, Philip Marlowe, is in need of better handling if he is to survive as a screen hero. Marlowe, is a plodding, unsure piece of so-called sleuthing in which James Garner can never make up his mind whether to play it for comedy or hardboil. Stirling Silliphant's adaptation of The Little Sister comes out on the confused side, with too much unexplained action...Garner walks through the picture mostly with knotted brow, but Gayle Hunnicutt as the actress is nice to look at toward the end. Rita Moreno as a strip dancer delivers soundly, but a peeler does not a picture make.

Critic Roger Ebert panned the film in his review, writing, "But [Chandler's] books depend mostly on the texture and style of life in Los Angeles, and on the cynical intelligence of Philip Marlowe. That's probably why Marlowe, the latest movie to be based on a Chandler book, is not very satisfactory. Even though director Paul Bogart shot on location, he has not quite captured the gritty quality of Chandler's LA. And James Garner, the latest Marlowe (after Robert Montgomery, Dick Powell and Humphrey Bogart), is a little too inclined to play for light, wry, James Bond-style laughs...detective movies have got to function at the level of plot, somehow, unless they star Bogart and are written by William Faulkner and just brazen their way through. Marlowe isn't brazen enough. Somewhere about the time when the Chinese martial arts expert wrecks his office (in a very funny scene), we realize Marlowe has lost track of the plot, too.



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