Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

RATING: 8/10

Keep a notepad, and a couple of pens, handy for this film directed by Edward Dmytryk (The Caine Mutiny).

Sure, there's no cast of thousands in this 1944 effort based on a Philip Marlowe mystery by Raymond Chandler.


But this movie fan was scratching his head several times during its 95-minute running time trying to figure out who was doing what to whom.

Private eye Marlowe (Clifton Webb) is hired by a very imposing thug, Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki), who was recently sprung from jail. Eight years after last seeing her, Moose is eager to meet up again with dancer Velma Valento.

Marlowe's investigation introduces him to Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton), a man who has ties to the very rich Mr. Grayley (Miles Mander), his much younger and sexier wife, Helen (Claire Trevor), and Grayley's daughter Ann (Anne Shirley). Ann's not too impressed with her step-mother, but still loves her father.


Take these six characters, add in savvy jewel fence Jules Amthor (Otto Kruger) and police detective Lieut. Randall (Donald Douglas) and audiences are left trying to figure out where this plot, about a stolen jade necklace worth plenty of dough, is headed.

Even with a storyline that likely needs more than one viewing to really make sense, Murder, My Sweet offers plenty of entertainment.

Malloy's first appearance on screen is one of the creepiest I've seen in some time. He's not the sharpest tool in the drawer, but he's definitely the deadliest. Marlowe repeatedly struggles with how best not to ignite Malloy's anger.

Webb makes a solid Marlowe. Some of his lines fall well short, but many are spot on.


"I stir up trouble on the side," he suggests when he first meets Mr. Grayley.

Noting Ann's quite pleasing figure, Marlowe offers this gem, "I seem to remember you from one of my dreams, one of the better ones."

When she wants Marlowe to stop his investigation, he warns her sooner or later, everything that's going on is going to be known anyway. Does she want to be hurt now, or later? "Cancer doesn't stop growing because you ask it to," he tells her. "You're hanging on to something that's going to smack you."

Murdeer, My Sweet offers more than a chance to kill time. It's another great film noir for audiences who want to be challenged and enjoy a script that offers plenty of bite.

FUN FACTS: Murder, My Sweet was Anne Shirley's last film role. A child actress, she made her debut in The Hidden Woman in 1922. Shirley appeared in 68 films. She died in 1993 at age 75. Shirley married Adrian Scott, Murder, My Sweet's producer, in 1945.

Embarassed to say I didn't remember Claire Trevor appeared in John Ford's western masterpiece, Stagecoach, in 1939. She won a best supporting Oscar for Key Largo in 1949.

Mike Mazurki appeared in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy in 1990. He died the same year that film was released.

Some day I have to watch Won Ton Ton: The Dog who Saved Hollywood. So many actors who've appeared in films I've written about, such as Mazurki, have appeared in this 1976 release.

Lindsay Marriott appeared in the 1934 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. That film is also reviewed by Reel Popcorn Junkie.

Donald Douglas appeared in 110 films between 1929 and 1945. He died that year. Douglas was 40.

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