Sunday, January 1, 2012

Philip Marlowe - Private Detective

In 1946 Humphrey Bogart played hard-boiled private detective Philip Marlowe in the movie adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. That performance would spark interest in Philip Marlowe for decades to come and etch an expectation of Bogey's style and presence into the conscious fabric of fans of the character. Though Bogey never played Marlowe on radio his voice is the one that comes to mind first. When it comes to voices it's next to impossible to beat Bogart's.

Gerald Mohr took on the role of Philip Marlowe in the radio series The Adventures of Philip Marlowe on September 26, 1948. The series had been on the air for nearly 6 months with actor Van Heflin in the role of Marlowe. Heflin's portrayal, however, was flat leaving both Chandler himself and listeners disappointed. Mohr's impact on the series was immediate. He breathed new life into series. With his bold personality, tough voice and gritty take on Marlowe the series would run 3 more years ending on September 15, 1951. The Adventures of Philip Marlowe starring Gerald Mohr is a work of greatness still available and still appreciated by Marlowe fans to this day.


Raymond Chandler’s immortal private eye Philip Marlowe would once again make a return to radio. This time the BBC adapting Chandler's first 6 novels (The Big Sleep, The High Window, Farewell My Lovely, The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, and The Long Goodbye). UK-based American character actor Ed Bishop took on the role of Marlowe in these 90-minute presentations which would be produced and broadcast  between 1977 and 1988. Bishop's voice takes a bit of getting used to in the role of Marlowe but once that happens his performance is actually quite good. The production of these 6 Marlowe stories is very enjoyable and well worth listening to. The only downfall to these productions is that the female voices don't always fit the parts. Often times the women sound much older than the character being portrayed. This exception aside, these are very well made dramas.


In 2011 the BBC would once again commission the production of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels. This time producing all eight of his works (The Big Sleep, The High Window, Farewell My Lovely, The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, Playback and Poodle Springs which was finished 30 years later by author Robert B. Parker). Toby Stephens would take on the role of hard-boiled P.I. Philip Marlowe and bring his own brand of toughness to the role. Stephens fits the part well and does the character justice. These productions are crisp, sharp and filled with kick your door in, knock your teeth out adventure. Marlowe fans will find these productions most enjoyable. The only downfall to this series is the sound effects. They're mixed well but the sound engineer missed on many of the period effects. Cars, trains, guns and at times telephone sound effects are often not from the era of the Marlowe stories. Anyone who's ever heard a 38 Packard or an Oldsmobile, Buick, Ford or Chevy from the 30s, 40s or 50s knows it doesn't sound like a Toyota or a Fiat. Most listeners probably won't notice these sounds being from the wrong time period but those with a trained ear will pick up on it immediately. Voice casting for this series was very good and the female voices were exceptional. Marlowe fans should be very pleased with the BBC's efforts to capture the essence of the hard-boiled detective created by Chandler.

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