East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The many faces of Marlowe


long-goodbyeMy friend Giulia – she has just started her new blog, and you should check it out – suggested a fun idea, the other day: why not do a post about Philip Marlowe.
About Philip Marlowe at the movies.
About the actors that were Marlowe in the movies.
And I thought… why not?

Because you see, Philip Marlowe is a small wonder – a pulp character that made thegrade to serious literature without even trying.
Ray Chandler‘s work is there to defuse any argument about popular literature as inferior narrative, as a lesser art.
Marlowe – and Chandler – have become, without really trying, the champions of a whole body of literature.

51lB6IEGSOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The movies made Marlowe extremely popular.
International, a household name.
Like Dracula, or Tarzan.
And if we take a look at the movies, Philip Marlowe might seem a true urban Tarzan – a man that grew up in the urban jungle and it’s savvy to its ways and rules.
Granted, Marlowe is not the undisputed lord of his jungle, but his skills, his outlook and his dry wit are the best fit for the place he’s living in.
He’s a survivor and, in his own downtrodden way, rules.

And what about the actors.
To the vast majority, Phil Marlowe is Humphrey Bogart – a true instance of a legend portraying a legend. And probably Robert Mitchum follows suit in popularity.
Futura-1990 Priess Raymond Chandlers MarloweBut what of Robert Montgomery and Dick Powell, two actors that were closely associated with the character, lending their faces and voices in movies, TV and radio adaptations?
Some casting choices might seem weird – James Garner, Elliot Gould, James Caan.
And yet they work.
And then there’s the radio adaptations – Gerald Mohr was Marlowe between the 1940s and the 1950s, and then the BBC cast first Ed Bishop and then Toby Stephens as Marlowe.

So, here’s a gallery of the many faces of Philip
Did I leave somebody out?
Do you have a favorite out there?
Who is the one closer to your personal mental image of the Ray Chandler character?
The comments are open.

Oh, and just for your information… Ray Chandler said the best actror to play Marlowe would have been Cary Grant. So there.

Considering that we are dealing with the stuff of legends, I have three high class outsiders on my list: Danny Glover, Powers Boothe and Van Heflin.
I would have paid good money to see Heflin – wonderful actor, terribly underrated – on screen playing Phil Marlowe. But he only played him on radio.


Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “The many faces of Marlowe

  1. How to disagree with Ray Chandler 🙂


  2. Pingback: Blogathon: I migliori film trati dai libri – The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973) | strategie evolutive

  3. Pingback: The many faces of Holmes | Karavansara

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