Book Review – THE LITTLE SISTER (1949) by Raymond Chandler

THE LITTLE SISTER by RAYMOND CHANDLER (1949, Hamish Hamilton /Penguin Books Ltd., Paperback, 2010 edition, 298pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Her name is Orfamay Quest and she’s come all the way from Manhattan, Kansas, to find her missing brother Orrin. Or leastways that’s what she tells PI Philip Marlowe, offering him a measly twenty bucks for the privilege. But Marlowe’s feeling charitable – though it’s not long before he wishes he wasn’t so sweet. You see, Orrin’s trail leads Marlowe to luscious movie starlets, uppity gangsters, suspicious cops and corpses with ice picks jammed in their necks. When trouble comes calling, sometimes it’s best to pretend to be out . . .

9780241954324The Little Sister is Chandler’s fifth Philip Marlowe novel and alongside his next book, The Long Goodbye, shows Marlowe at his most lonely, world-weary and vulnerable. The plot is a complex tangle but concentrates on a core group of characters – all of them fuelled by selfish greed. Chandler takes a number of opportunities for social commentary and displays an obvious dislike for the Hollywood industry which makes gods out of fakes.

The dialogue has a biting wit to it that shows Chandler increasingly digging beneath the surface and replacing what was once seen as mere cynicism with a darker melancholy. Marlowe in particular seems to be fighting his own self-doubts and solitude. The mystery itself weaves in twists and turns as one would expect but almost becomes secondary to Marlowe’s increasing hostility to all around him.

As such the novel will satisfy hard-boiled mystery buffs. For connoisseurs this novel represents a further step in Chandler’s desire to add more substance to his stories. He would go on to take this approach to its extreme with his classic The Long Goodbye.

Film Review – FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975)

FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975, E. K. Corporation/ITC, USA, 100 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Mono, Cert: 15, Mystery) ∗∗∗∗
     Starring: Robert Mitchum (Philip Marlowe), Charlotte Rampling (Mrs. Helen Grayle), John Ireland (Lt. Nulty), Sylvia Miles (Mrs. Jessie Florian), Anthony Zerbe(Laird Brunette), Harry Dean Stanton (Billy Rolfe), Jack O’Halloran (Moose Malloy), Joe Spinell (Nick), Sylvester Stallone (Jonnie), Kate Murtagh (Frances Amthor), John O’Leary (Lindsay Marriott), Walter McGinn (Tommy Ray), Burton Gilliam (Cowboy), Jim Thompson (Mr. Baxter Wilson Grayle), Jimmie Archer (Georgie).
      Producer: George Pappas, Jerry Bruckheimer; Director: Dick Richards; Writer: David Zelag Goodman (based on the novel by Raymond Chandler); Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo (Technicolor); Music: David Shire; Film Editor: Walter Thompson, Joel Cox; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis, Art Director: Angelo Graham; Set Decorator: Bob Nelson; Costume Designer: Tony Scarano, Silvio Scarano, Sandra Berke.

Farewell-My-Lovely-DVD-69883Delightful version of Raymond Chandler’s classic 1940 novel, previously filmed as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and MURDER MY SWEET (1945). Mitchum is a perfect world-weary Marlowe, despite his age and Richards creates an authentic translation of the author’s prose.

Marlowe is hired by oversized ex-con Moose Malloy (O’Halloran) to trace the girl he has not seen for seven years. What follows is a twisting tale of deceit, spiced with witty dialogue and colourful characters. The period detail is also excellent with the dark photography (by Alonzo who also worked on the previous year’s genre classic Chinatown) and mournful music score adding considerably to the mood.

In a strong supporting cast, Miles (nominated for a supporting actress Academy Award) scores heavily as a booze-soaked ex-dancer and Ireland is imposing as the seemingly only honest cop, Nulty. Also impressive is Murtagh as the butch madam of a brothel who also gets the better of Marlowe physically. Some of the other performances are more variable – former boxer O’Halloran is physically imposing as Moose, but delivers his lines with a stiffness that matches his build. Rampling manages to create some sexual tension, but lacks the finesse for this type of role of a Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake.

Richards’ pacing of the story is well-judged and his work on this meticulously designed film is supported by editors Thompson and Cox in retaining a sense of clarity and flow through the complex plot twists.

The film’s success led to Mitchum playing Marlowe again in the less successful remake of THE BIG SLEEP in 1978, which bizarrely switched location from 1940s LA to 1970s London.