A nice write up courtesy of my favorite blog "Rupert Pupkin Speaks":
1. Murder, My Sweet (1944, screenplay by John Paxton, directed by Edward Dmytryk)
OK, so, noir again. RKO again. Claire Trevor again. Even Mike Mazurki again. So, what puts this over the top as, far and away, my favorite film discovery of 2012? Dick Powell.
Like I suspect a lot of people, I was introduced to film noir by John Huston’s THE MALTESE FALCON and Howard Hawks’ THE BIG SLEEP. Both obviously star Humphrey Bogart, who I’d already seen, and fallen in love with, in CASABLANCA. Both are hardboiled detective stories with Bogart playing hardboiled detectives. That works for Falcon, as Sam Spade may be the definitive hardboiled detective. But Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe really kind of isn’t, and, as much as I love Bogart and Hawks’ movie, the Philip Marlowe of THE BIG SLEEP has always seemed like Sam Spade, except a bit less so, to me.
Enter former Warner Bros. song and dance man Dick Powell, who desperately wanted to play Marlowe in MURDER, MY SWEET when it was still called Farewell, My Lovely, which is the name of Chandler’s novel. When RKO gave in and cast Powell in the role, they changed the title so they could put the word murder in it, thereby assuring the audience this wasn’t another happy Dick Powell musical.
The plot is pure noir. A complex, spiraling web spins out of the simplest of cases, and Marlowe finds himself caught between forces financial, brutal and sexual. Claire’s the hot loser again. Mazurki is in probably his signature role as Moose Malloy, who sets the wheels in motion with his ham fists. We’ve also got cinema’s most urbane schemer in Otto Kruger, and RKO contract hag Esther Howard in one of her patented sassy, sauced cameos (she’s great in BORN TO KILL, too). Director Dmytryk keeps everything moving, keeps everything clear (something THE BIG SLEEP revels in its failure to do) and adds some nice visual storytelling, particularly during an extended hallucination sequence.
And then there’s Powell, whose voiceover is probably the best such narration I’ve ever heard, and whose every action and reaction is perfect for the situation he’s in. See, Bogart is always Bogart. Tough, two steps ahead of the plot, and always in control. Dick Powell’s Philip Marlowe is scared sometimes; he begs off when Moose strong-arms him, and he’s always as quick with a sarcastic remark as he is with his gun, and you always feel like he’s just hanging on enough to keep survival in sight, if not victory. In short, I don’t think I could ever be Bogart, but Dick Powell allows me to feel maybe, just maybe, I’d make it pretty good noir detective if I got a good lead and most of the breaks.