A history of Phillip Marlowe on Screen

June 20, 2007


Sometimes you see a headline that just puts a smile on your face, and you know that sometimes, yes, Hollywood gets it right, and truly great films get made.

Frank Miller will adapt and direct the classic Raymond Chandler novella, TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS, with Clive Owen set to star as Phillip Marlowe… I’m hard pressed to think of any team better suited to tackle this material. Miller eats, sleeps, and breathes noir, and Owen proved he can deliver an old school monologue better than anyone with his role in Sin City. Even more exciting, this could be the beginning of a franchise, with more Chandler adaptations on the way!

This actually something Owen has been fighting for, he convinced Universal to get the rights to these books, and word is he had a big hand in getting Miller in the Director’s Chair. I’ll go on record as saying I think this is the part Clive Owen was born for.

For those who haven’t read Chandler, Marlowe is the James Bond of private eyes… he’s the protype for most of the great heroes in noir fiction. As Bond is to Secret Agents, or Indiana Jones is to adventurers, that’s Marlowe for detectives. Every one of those “beautiful, dangerous woman walks into a Detective’s office” scenes you’ve ever watched… yeah, that’s Marlowe.

Phillip Marlowe’s got a brilliant and storied history on the screen… the most notable potrayal being Humphrey Bogart’s classic turn in one of the greatest films ever made, THE BIG SLEEP… here’s that trailer:

A litte more, huh? Watch Bogie sweet talk the ladies, including the stunning and brilliant Martha Vickers…

The next person to take on Marlowe was Phillip Montgomery in LADY IN THE LAKE… the gimmick: this film was shot entirely from Marlowe’s perspective; we see what he sees. It gets a bit tiring after a while, but I hope Miller gives a nod to it at some point:

Twenty years later, James Garner breathed fresh life into the role with MARLOWE… I love this film, Garner does a great job… and it has BRUCE LEE… as a villain! Here’s a couple scenes:

A true classic here: the greatest director of all time, ROBERT ALTMAN, with ELLIOT GOULD playing a very different Marlowe. The result was unconventional, controversial, and a complete masterwork… enjoy one of the finest trailers ever made, for THE LONG GOODBYE–

There have been plenty of other takes on Marlowe, but those are your highlights. Revisiting this character is long overdue… Owen has a big task in front of him, but with Miller’s help, I think he’ll do an exceptional job. This could be the beginning of something great.