We’ll start off today by noting that the 1941 classic pictured above had nothing to do with today’s subject, novelist/screenwriter Raymond Chandler.
The Maltese Falcon was based upon a novel by Chandler’s compatriot in crime fiction, Dashiell Hammett. The central character, Sam Spade, a hardnosed, San Francisco-based gumshoe, is played Humphrey Bogart.
Bogart also introduces himself as Philip Marlowe, the Los Angeles-based private eye, in 1946’s The Big Sleep, based on Chandler’s 1939 novel.
As film noir specialist Eddie Muller observes, Philip Marlowe was a more romanticized vision of the private eye. To Chandler, he was a hero, not just a professional. His code of honor was more rigid than Sam Spade’s, and unlike Hammett’s taciturn protagonists, Marlowe was inclined to erupt in florid soliloquy.
Anyone who has read a Chandler novel can attest to that.
In all about seven of Chandler’s novels were made into movies. He also penned about a his half dozen screenplays, often to little no avail. He was, for example, fired by Alfred Hitchcock, who disliked his script for 1951’s Strangers On A Train. He clashed mightily with director Billy Wilder while hammeringc out the roadmap for 1944’s Double Indemnity.
Nonetheless, reading Chandler novels made into movies is a most instructive experience. We just finished perusing one of Chandler’s lesser-known novels, The High Window published in 1942.
It’s a sprawling ploit, filled with major and minor characters who inspire Marlowe to long speeches that would prove a nightmare to an assiduous screenwriter. Perhaps that’s why that although the book has been adapted to the screen twice, the pictures are all but forgotten. The best known of the novel’s screen adaptation is 1942’s Time To Kill with Lloyd Nolan as a dick by the name of Michael Shayne.
Philip Marlowe re-emerges in center stage in 1947’s The Brasher Doubloon, played by George Montgomery. (The title refers to stolen rare coin that propels an intricate plot.)
If there is a case to be made that enjoying Chandler’s books is often preferable to viewing the ensuing screen adaptations, these two picture are exhibit A. That’s why we urge you to first read Chandler novels their their entertainingly convoluted and sprawling form.
Then see the movie.