MaxSpeak at the movies: “Murder, My Sweet”

I’ve been asked to resume doing movie reviews. I rarely go to the theater. Hey I’ve got a 52″ screen. Don’t need to. One Transformers film is enough.

Proof I’m getting old — I watched a Turner Classic Movie, and it was great: Murder, My Sweet, from the Raymond Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely. (Not to be confused with the 1975 remake starring Robert Mitchum.) This one stars Dick Powell and people I’d never heard of, with the exception of Mike Mazurki. It came out in 1944.

Mike Mazurki (6'5")

Mike Mazurki (6’5″)

The violence in the movie is pretty tame for a murder/detective flick, no great loss. None of the actors’ physiques would get them into a screen test today. Powell in one scene is wearing pants and just an undershirt when The Dame walks in and compliments him on his build, not much different than Ozzie Nelson’s. These days he wouldn’t frighten anyone in a dark alley. By contrast, the heavy Mazurki (born Mikhaił Mazurkiewicz, an Austrian), had been a football player and professional wrestler. He looks like he could more than hold his own with any of today’s action heroes. Moreover, Mazurki is a pretty good actor as a low-brow thug. In reality he had a college degree and spoke better English than Schwarzenegger.

The plot is reasonably intricate and the dialog snappy. It works more as camp than as seriously gripping, but it’s still great fun.

The director was Edward Dmytryk. He had done some anti-fascist movies in the Forties. He later ran afoul of the red scare, did time, got blacklisted, eventually appeared before HUAC, and named names. He got back to working in the U.S. afterwards; the most memorable later effort was The Caine Mutiny.

I could detect no political memes in this film. One bit of prescience, at one point the protagonist Powell is injected with psychotropic drugs and suffers hallucinations, the depictions of which are also campy, given the limited state of movie technology.

I hate movie reviews that preview the plot, so I won’t do it. If you like film noir detective movies, you should like this. One of my favorite courses in college was called “The Tough Guy Novel,” taught by one Peter Manso, who later became a big-time author. We read Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity), Dashiell Hammett, others I don’t recall at the moment. Great stuff.


MaxSpeak at the movies: “Murder, My Sweet” — 11 Comments

  1. It’s Edward Dmytryk week on TCM, I think. I met him in L.A. in the mid-1980s during an El Salvador organizing project. Scars of fifties were still as if brand new; another old film guy literally spit at him at an event.

  2. I love film noir. My new favorite is The Knick on Skinemax. Not noir exactly, but compelling stuff. The contrast of the dark, cynical setting makes the good guys seem that much more good. It ain’t easy.

  3. Good MaxReview!

    ‘One of my favorite courses in college was called “The Tough Guy Novel”…’

    Now we understand your compact and punchy political/economic commentary.

  4. Never seen The Long Goodbye, but it’s next on my list. Hard to imagine Eliott Gould as a tough guy.

  5. ‘Hard to imagine Eliott Gould as a tough guy.’

    Gould is tough-minded and indifferent to getting hurt. It doesn’t get any better than The Long Goodbye.

  6. John le Carre’ fits into the noir tent. Just saw “A Most Wanted Man” over the weekend; well worth the ticket price.

  7. Lot of great lines in that movie, including “He died in 1940, in the middle of a glass of beer. His wife Jessie finished it for him.” Also Mike Mazurki as Moose Malloy is great.

  8. I wish I’d discovered earlier that Max had been freed from the Obama Administration (for good behavior?), but even though it’s late here, if you want a (mostly) truthful record of the Blacklist Era you can’t do better than Dmytryk’s ‘Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten’.

    Lefties will be suitably appalled. Hint: he refers to John Howard Lawson as the ‘Gauleiter’ of Hollywood Communism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.