Sunday, July 28, 2013

Phil Marlowe

There was that Ukrainian-American director Edward Dmytryk. He said that nobody ever walked out of a mystery no matter how bad it was. It was a puzzle and the audience wanted to see the solution.

I don't know if that's true. I have no trouble turning off really bad mysteries. Dmytryk directed Murder, My Sweet which I liked, based on a Raymond Chandler novel which actually wasn't all that much of a mystery. Chandler's books tended not to make complete sense. There's never been an explanation by anyone as to who committed one of the murders in The Big Sleep. Is it ever really clear how Philip Marlowe solves any of his cases or does he just jump to a wild conclusion?

Kenneth Millar who wrote the Lew Archer series under the name Ross Macdonald argued that, in Chandler's books, the plot was of no importance. He had reason for a bit of a grudge against Chandler who attacked Macdonald's early novel, The Moving Target, in a letter to the publisher. Millar noted that Chandler liked old men and young boys in his books and seemed to hate all his other characters.

I don't know how I feel about Chandler. I only read one of his novels and it had a couple of racist elements to it which ruined it for me. How can a smart private detective be a simple-minded racist? I thought that Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye was an improvement on the novel which wasn't very good----it was seen as a sign of Chandler's decline. The movie's ending was better than the book's.

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