Murder, My Sweet (Dir. Edward Dmytryk, 1944) was the first of two attempts to film Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely. It starred Dick Powell as Marlowe and Claire Trevor as Velma. Powell had made his name in Busby Berkeley's musicals, so screenwriter John Paxton gave him a flashback structure that allowed extensive voice-over narration imitating Chandler's style. As a result Powell is more convincing to modern audiences than he was to those of the 1940s. But he "lacks Spade's self conscience and mastery of others," writes Palmer, so the movie becomes "an imitation of The Maltese Falcon."17 The plot is even more confusing than the novel's, which it generally follows. Stylistic touches, such as the opening shots of the police interrogating the blind-folded Marlowe and the montage of swirling, surreal vistas that he experiences on being mugged, create a threatened, almost powerless Marlowe, whose "disavowal of male power" is made complete by his romantic coupling with Anne Riordan at the movie's end. 18 Not how Chandler wrote it, but a central movie in film noir, which stresses powerlessness.
The film was remade again in 1975 with Robert Michum and released as Farewell, My Lovely. This version also has its partisans, who cite the older, world-weary Mitchum as truer to Chandler's characterization.
17 R. Barton Palmer, Hollywood's Dark Cinema: The American Film Noir (New York: Twayne, 1994), 73. 18 Palmer, 81.