Film, video and television productions based on the character created by Raymond Chandler:
Director Irving Reis; writers Lynn Root, Frank Fenton; featuring George Sanders, Lynn Bari, Ward Bond
Also called Farewell, My Lovely
Director Edward Dmytryk; writer John Paxton; featuring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley
Director Howard Hawks; writers William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; featuring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
Director Robert Montgomery; writer Steve Fisher; featuring Robert Montgomery, Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan
Director Paul Bogart; writer Stirling Silliphant; featuring James Garner, Gayle Hunnicutt, Carroll O'Connor, Rita Moreno
Director Robert Altman; writer Leigh Brackett; featuring Elliot Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden
Director Dick Richards; writer David Zelag Goodman; featuring Robert Mitchum, Charlotte Rampling, Jack O'Halloran
Director Michael Winner; writer Winner; featuring Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Joan Collins, James Stewart
Philip Marlowe takes on a tough client in 1975's Farewell, My Lovely.
The success of Farewell, My Lovely in 1975 led a few years later to a re-filming of The Big Sleep (1978) around Robert Mitchum. But what a difference.
Mitchum is now hitting sixty. (I think the character in Chandler's novel is supposed to be about thirty-eight.) But worse, the period has suddenly been updated from the 1940s to the then-present (1970s).
And, far worse, the setting has been moved from the mean streets of Los Angeles to the civilized lanes of Britain. Yes, Marlowe is now a gumshoe in swinging London.
There may be a tiny bit of justification for this in author Chandler having been raised in England, and the script by director Michael Winner (best known for making the vigilante Death Wish movies) is not bad.
Robert Mitchum back as Marlowe
Despite being about twenty minutes shorter than the 1946 Big Sleep with Humphrey Boagart, it reflects the book's text better, taking huge chunks of voice-over and dialogue straight from the novel.
It also borrows some from the earlier film. The line about meeting the younger Sternwood now becomes, "She tried to sit in my lap. I was standing up at the time." One plot improvement though: that one unresolved murder is finally explained.
But Chandler-Marlowe just doesn't work in 1970s England. The brooding moodiness is gone. Marlowe changes from slumming angel to solid, middle-class citizen.
The sex and pornography themes are truer to the book, thanks to the more enlightened times, but the scandal attached to them is gone. Marlowe shadowing umbrella-wielding Britishers around London because they're buying and selling books of, gasp, naked women?
Yet, in some ways Mitchum is a better Marlowe than Bogart. (He is better in Farewell, My Lovely anyway). He exemplifies the weary but still decent sleuth. One can only imagine what he could have done with the role in 1946.
But we already have a classic Big Sleep from 1946 that we're quite happy with. We may enjoy this later British incarnation as a curiosity. Or not.