Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Farewell, My Lovely: Raymond Chandler

At the beginning of Farewell, My Lovely, Philip Marlowe is hired (under some duress) to look for an ex-con's old girl friend, but along the way he is distracted by a case involving some missing jewelry.  Lin Marriott hires Marlowe to protect him when he hands over a ransom for the return of the jewels; during this operation, Marlowe is knocked out and Marriott is killed. The police tell Chandler to stay out of that case, but he is hired by the wealthy couple who own the stolen jewelry to recover it. Anne Riordan, the daughter of the former police chief of Bay City, gets involved and helps him in the investigation.

The only other book I have read by Chandler is The Big Sleep and, based on that experience, I expected to enjoy reading this book. I was not disappointed. The plot was convoluted and circuitous and I was lost at times, but I did not care. The style of writing was so well done, so beautiful that I was mesmerized.  The picture of Los Angeles in 1940 was interesting, the characters were well defined, and the descriptions of the area and the characters were breath-taking.

I did wonder why the story seemed so disjointed, but later remembered that this book was cobbled together from three short stories. That explains several subplots that generally are worked into the overall mystery plot but tend to go off on their own for quite a while. It did not really matter at all. The story is such a joy to read I wasn't bothered by the extraneous plots.


My favorite character in the book (other than Marlowe, of course) was Anne Riordan. She is straightforward, clever, and able to give Marlowe as good as she gets. She seems to have inherited her investigative abilities from her police chief father. It is good to see a woman given a strong, positive role in this type of book.

Some reviews I read noted that Marlowe was racist. I did not notice that in this book. Various characters do speak in disparaging ways about blacks, but those comments are not reflections of Marlowe's attitudes or his behavior. The story does provide a comparison of how the death of a black owner of a bar vs. the death of a white man, Marriott, is treated by the police. Nulty, an incompetent detective, is assigned the first case and no one really cares what results he gets. Inspector Randall of Central Homicide is assigned Marriott's death and that case is pursued throughout the book. There is also a separate subplot about corruption in the Bay City government and police department. Thus we get social commentary along with the mystery plot.


Farewell, My Lovely was adapted in 1944 as the film noir, Murder, My Sweet; it is very stylish and very entertaining. I was surprised to find that this movie, starring Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe, preceded The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe. Thus Dick Powell was the first actor to portray Marlowe in a movie (although in 1942, The Falcon Takes Over, a film in the Falcon series, used the plot of Farewell, My Lovely).

The role of Marlowe in this film gave Powell the chance to leave behind his male ingenue singing roles. I have always loved him in those roles, but he wanted out of musicals and to prove himself capable of serious roles. He did a great job in the role, very convincing, and also included a humorous touch in his portrayal.

Claire Trevor was gorgeous and predatory in the role of Helen Grayle, the woman married to the much older Mr. Grayle who owns the missing jade necklace. In the movie, the Anne Riordan role becomes Ann Grayle, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Grayle, trying to save her father from the pain of losing his young and beautiful wife. Ann is played very charmingly by Anne Shirley. The plot in the movie changes a lot from the book, and several confusing subplots are jettisoned. But the movie is just as confusing in it own way. I also liked Otto Kruger playing the role of Jules Amthor, the fake psychic.

In 1975, Robert Mitchum starred in a second adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely. I have not seen that version, but you can check out this post at Tipping My Fedora.

See reviews also at Past Offences, The Crime Segments, A Crime is Afoot, and avidbookreader. Most of those reviews have more plot detail than my post does.

I purchased both of my copies of the book at the Planned Parenthood book sale last year. The top picture is the one I read and features the red-headed Anne Riordan and Marlowe. The second book pictured here has gorgeous cover art by Tom Adams.

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Publisher:   Vintage Books, 1976. Orig. pub. 1940.
Length:      249 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Philip Marlowe, #2
Setting:      Los Angeles
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copies.


30 comments:

  1. Thanks very much for the shoutout Tracy - so glad you enjoyed the book and film as I am a huge fan - and yes, the 1975 version is really worth seeing too. To be finicky, ahead of Powell and Bogart but after Sanders (just), the role had also been played, sorta, by Lloyd Nolan when THE HIGH WINDOW was adapted as "Time to Kill" in the Michael Shayne series.

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    1. I had heard of the Time to Kill film but had not noted the date. I had not counted those two just because they were not playing the role under the Marlowe name, but no matter. I would love to see both the Falcon movie and Time to Kill but it seems like Time to Kill is not available on DVD? I have the first 4 Mike Shayne movies with Lloyd Nolan but have not seen them yet.

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    2. "Time to Kill," which I'll have to check out because I've never seen it, is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QngbNGnR_ZA

      Regarding your comments about racism in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, it is--as you point out--the police who demonstrate the racist attitudes, not Marlowe.

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    3. Thanks for that information, Barry. I don't usually watch anything lengthy on YouTube, but I may make an exception in this case.

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    4. It runs just under an hour. The print is choppy in several places, and is interrupted a few times by ads you can skip after a few seconds.

      The film sticks to more of THE HIGH WINDOW than I'd have expected, and is fun for what it is--but definitely read the book!

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    5. I have the first 4 Mike Shayne movies with Lloyd Nolan but have not seen them yet

      I've seen a couple. There's way too much emphasis on comedy. They're OK but a bit disappointing.

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    6. I did not really expect the Mike Shayne movies to be very good, dfordoom, but I thought it would still be interesting to see them. I haven't even read any of the Mike Shayne books, although I have some I plan to read.

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    7. I did not really expect the Mike Shayne movies to be very good, dfordoom, but I thought it would still be interesting to see them.

      If you accept them for what they are, lighthearted comedy/mysteries, they're moderately entertaining.

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    8. Exactly what I am hoping for, dfordoom. We do enjoy old movies.

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  2. Thnaks very much for your link to my post Tracy! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Thanks, Jose Ignacio, I always enjoy your reviews.

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  3. I liked the 1975 film version of FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. Mitchum was too old for the role but he carried it off superbly anyway. It's a nicely moody film that actually manages to feel like genuine film noir despite being in colour.

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    1. I would like to see that movie, dfordoom. It is available at Amazon, guess I will have to get a copy.

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  4. Very glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. I know just what you mean, too, about Chandler's style. There's something about it, isn't there, that draws the reader in. It invites you to follow along with the story.

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    1. I look forward to reading more of these books, Margot. To see if they are all as good as the first two.

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  5. I re-read some Chandler last Fall, and was immediately mesmerized by the language, characters and plotting. You're right about this being a fix-up from stories, but like you I didn't care. Very nice review!

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    1. Thanks, Rick. I guess the most important thing to me in a book is the style of writing, characters next. He does both well.

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  6. Nicely reviewed, Tracy. I haven't read Chandler though, as with so many other novels, I have been meaning to read "The Big Sleep" and watch the Bogart-Bacall film version too.

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    1. Prashant, I loved reading The Big Sleep but I had seen the movie many times, so that did affect my reaction. I hope you do read the book and watch the film.

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  8. The book is not terribly racist by the standards of popular fiction in that time period, but it doesn't treat black people as equals, only shows them as part of some criminal underworld, and uses the derogatory term 'dinge'. Maybe that wasn't in the version you read--I read a first edition.

    Racist doesn't just mean hating people who aren't like you. It can also mean treating them as somehow less important, subsidiary, mere shadows. Chandler, I think, really did want to include a greater variety of people in his fiction, but the basic assumptions he was raised with were hard to shake.

    He also talks of a Jewish woman who owns a bookstore in a way that doesn't sit right with me. Like she's interesting, but somehow alien. "The fine-drawn face of an intelligent Jewess." Marlowe wouldn't even think about flirting with her (in the movie version he does, but she's played by a beautiful starlet). Sometimes you can be offensive without meaning to be. Times change. People learn.

    Chandler's prose is his great strength. You just savor the way he makes music out of idiomatic American speech patterns. But I don't think he ever rose to the level of Hammett. An incomplete talent--less than meets the eye.

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    1. I do see your point, Chris, and I was uncomfortable with some of the descriptions of black people and their treatment. I don't remember the uses of "dinge" but the epithet "shine" was used several times. And you are right, there are other books from that time period that have been a lot worse. Especially in the references to Jewish people.

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    2. As far as Hammett is concerned I find his nihilism and cynicism to be a bit tedious. He's the kind of author who just seems to be unable to see anything but misery. He was an appalling human being and it comes through in his writing.

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    3. dfordoom, I haven't read enough Hammett to comment on this (only Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man) but I do want to try more of his books. Although I have so many other books to read I may never get there.

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    4. I haven't read enough Hammett to comment on this (only Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man) but I do want to try more of his books

      If you've read The Maltese Falcon then you've read the best of his books.

      Red Harvest and The Glass Key get a lot of praise but they're grim, miserable, dull and full of the kind of cynicism that intellectuals love because it makes them feel superior.

      Chandler was by far the better writer.

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    5. I will keep that in mind, dfordoom, I do have all of Chandler's books and plan to read them all.

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  9. I need to get back to those guys, Tracy. I have DVDs of Maltese Falcon and Big Sleep, and they're so good they've made me lazy.

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    1. I love both of those too, Mathew, as films and the books too. More books by Chandler are definitely in my future reading. I may skip ahead to The Long Goodbye, and rewatch that movie.

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  10. I read everything by Chandler years ago, and only occasionally re-read, but always mean to. I didn't know that about it being cobbled together from short stories. The Big Sleep (which I have re-read recently) was always my favourite, but I should do this one again.

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    1. This Chandler book was so full of descriptions, Moira, and a lot of clothing descriptions. I wanted to include a lot of quotes, but the post was already too long, and they are better in context anyway. A very enjoyable read.

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