Phillip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is at police headquarters being interrogated. His eyes are bandaged. He relates to the detectives the series of events that brought him to this moment.
Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) is a huge dumb ex-con. He’s looking for his girlfriend Velma Valento. He’s been in prison for eight years and hasn’t heard from her in six. Marlowe is broke so he takes the case. She used to work at a nightclub called Florian’s. The former owner is dead but his widow, Jessie Florian (Esther Howard), is still around. She’s a lush. She tells him that Velma is dead. Marlowe finds a picture of her that Jessie tried to hide from him. As soon as he leaves he sees Jessie, suddenly sober, make a phone call.
The next day a man named Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton) comes to Marlowe. He is trying to buy back a jade necklace that was stolen from a friend of his. He needs someone to go with him. For a hundred dollars Marlowe isn’t going to refuse. At the rendezvous point Marlowe is knocked unconscious and Marriott is bludgeoned to death.
The next day Ann Grayle (Anne Shirley) comes to his office posing as a reporter. Marlowe sees through her ploy. She knows Marriott and she knows that the necklace was stolen. The necklace was given to her stepmother Helen Grayle (Claire Trevor) by her father Leuwen Grayle (Miles Mander). Leuwen is old and not in good health. Ann hates her stepmother but loves her father and wants to protect him. Before he leaves the Grayle estate he meets Jules Amthor (Otto Kruger). Amthor is a quack psychic healer that uses drugs in his therapies.
Moose catches up with Marlowe and forces him to go to Amthor’s place. He is looking for the necklace too. He thinks Marlowe may have it. He drugs Marlowe and keeps him locked up for days. Marlowe finally escapes but he is no nearer finding out who killed Marriott and how the necklace fits into all of it.
“Murder, My Sweet” was released in 1944 and was directed by Edward Dmytryk. It is a crime story and a film noir based on Raymond Chandler’s novel “Farewell My Lovely”. Originally titled “Farewell My Lovely” the movie did not do too well. Apparently the title made people think it was a musical, something Powell was well known for at the time. After the title change the film became a hit and Powell went from song and dance man to noir tough guy.
Director Edward Dmytryk used a few camera tricks to make Mike Mazurki’s character Moose Malloy look more imposing. Between the unusual cinematography and Chandler’s dialogue “Murder, My Sweet” is credited for paving the way for film noir.
The movie may be a little difficult to follow and there is a reason for that. The book itself is a combination of three different short stories written by Chandler that he weaved together. Some aspects of the story had to be adjusted due to the Production Code. For example Douglas Walton’s character Lindsay Marriott is gay but it is played down in the film. There are, however, subtle references to it. Claire Trevor’s character Helen is an adulterer which is also a problem so that as well was toned down.
There is a drug induced dream sequence that is just awesome. To create some of it Dmytryk used a camera trick that was also used in the film “Saboteur” 1942. He pulled the camera back from the actor to make it appear he was falling. He also did it fast to intensify the effect.
As a mystery it’s involved. As a film noir it’s good. The cast is great, full of veterans that know their craft. Powell does a good job for his first time as a cynical tough-guy Private Detective. If you are use to him in musicals, you won’t recognize him here. The whole film is dark and moody. Dmytryk is wonderful at the helm. It’s great detective story.