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April 18, 2014

Philip Marlowe back in action

by Julia Ward, posted Dec 12th 2006 2:04PM
Humphrey Bogart MarloweThere's a scene in Woody Allen's Manhattan in which he makes a list of all the things worth living for -- the Jupiter Symphony, Groucho Marx, his ex-girlfriend's face, etc. Whenever I make my list of reasons not to end it all, hard-boiled detective fiction always makes the list - books by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Patricia Highsmith; films like The Crack-Up, Detour and The Big Sleep. So, I reacted with a mixture of excitement and trepidation when I read that ABC will be reviving Chandler's most famous creation - Philip Marlowe - for TV.

Marlowe is no stranger to the silver screen or the boob tube. He has been played by plenty of heavy hitters - Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Elliot Gould, James Garner and Powers Boothe. In the ABC version, Marlowe will be getting a 21st century make-over. The show - called Marlowe - will be a "present-day procedural crime drama with noir aspects...set in Los Angeles." That's the part that brought about my "trepidation." Why turn Chandler's rich terrain filled with eccentric characters into yet another lame "procedural?"

In my mind, the best contemporary takes on Chandler have been the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski, an extremely savvy and intentional nod to Chandler's ambling style, Hollywood setting and colorful characters; the film Brick with its fast-talking, tough-nosed teens; the graphic novel version of Chandler's screenplay Playback; and Angel, which in its first season was basically a noir set in LA featuring a celibate, loner P.I. What we do know of ABC's Marlowe doesn't include an iota of this kind of originality. There's no point in condemning a project that hasn't even gotten off the ground yet. The producers have an order for three scripts, but the pilots is far from being in the works. Regardless, ABC would be wise to take a note from House's creative team, which effectively updated its own literary template - Sherlock Holmes.

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TomB

"The show - called Marlowe - will be a 'present-day procedural crime drama with noir aspects...set in Los Angeles.'"

You said it, Julia. The last thing we need is another take on a procedural crime drama. The noir aspect sounds interesting, though.

December 12 2006 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

I'm a huge mystery/noir fan too, and we need a good private eye show on TV again. But God I hope they don't ruin it by making it "modern."

Personally, I'd love to see a period-piece Marlowe, in black and white, but that probably wouldn't fly on the networks.

December 12 2006 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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