Farewell, My Lovely, the 1975 adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled novel of the same name is an old-fashioned film noir, mixed with touch of 70s cinematic cool. Robert Mitchum takes the lead as Phillip Marlowe, the iconic (and laconic) down-on-his-luck detective with a nose for trouble.
Dick Richards’ film sees Marlowe tracking down the former flame of gigantic ex-con, Moose Malloy (Jack O’Halloran), while also investigating a blackmail plot focusing on Helen Grayle, a flirtatious ‘Dame’, played by Charlotte Rampling. Pretty soon Marlowe is in trouble with both the criminals and with the cops.
All the elements are present to make Farewell, My Lovely a perfect film noir; the hardboiled narration, the jazzy score and Mitchum’s tough as nails Marlowe. It’s the right combination, and the film’s 70s sensibility means that it has a harder edge than its Golden Age counterparts, featuring more sex and violence. The opening credits are also very impressive – they appear to be colourised footage from the 1940s – a great touch.
Robert Mitchum is undoubtedly the star of the film, but Richards has also assembled an impressive supporting cast including the aforementioned Rampling, John Ireland, the always great Anthony Zerbe, Harry Dean Stanton and an appearance by Sylvester Stallone in a supporting role. It’s also interesting to note that the film was an early producing effort from über -producer, Jerry Bruckheimer.
Film Noir fans will be in their element with Farewell, My Lovely, while fans of Robert Mitchum will be impressed to see that he still had the goods in his late 50s. The actor went on to play Marlowe one more time in The Big Sleep, directed by the notorious Michael Winner. That film lacked much of what made Farewell, My Lovely great, transporting the action from Los Angeles to 1978 London (!). It’s not a patch of this film, which may just be one of the last great Noirs, or at the very least Robert Mitchum’s last great leading role.