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Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler in a series of novels including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Marlowe first appeared, under that name, in The Big Sleep, published in 1939. Chandler's early short stories, published in pulp magazines like Black Mask and Dime Detective, featured essentially identical characters with names like "Carmady" and "John Dalmas." Some of those short stories were later combined and expanded into novels featuring Marlowe, a process Chandler called "cannibalizing." When the non-cannibalized stories were republished years later in the short story collection The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler changed the names of the protagonists to Philip Marlowe.

Philip Marlowe's character is foremost within the genre of hardboiled crime fiction that originated in the 1920s, most notably in Black Mask magazine, in which Dashiell Hammett's The Continental Op and Sam Spade first appeared.

Underneath the wisecracking, hard drinking, tough private eye, Marlowe is quietly contemplative and philosophical, and enjoys chess and poetry. While he is not afraid to risk physical harm, he does not dish out violence merely to settle scores. Morally upright, he is not fooled by the genre's usual femmes fatale, such as Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep.

Chandler's treatment of the detective novel exhibits a continuing effort to develop the art form. His first full length book, The Big Sleep, was published when Chandler was 51; his last, Playback, at 70. All eight novels were produced in the last two decades of his life.

Biographical notes

In a letter to D. J. Ibberson, written 19 April 1951, Chandler noted among other things that Marlowe is 38 years old and was born in Santa Rosa, Californiamarker. He had a couple of years at college and some experience as an investigator for an insurance company and the district attorney's office of Los Angeles County; he was fired from the D.A.'s office for insubordination (or, as Marlowe put it, "talking back"). The D.A.'s chief investigator, Bernie Ohls, is a friend and former colleague, and a source of information for Marlowe within law enforcement.

Marlowe is slightly over six feet (about 185 centimetres) tall and weighs about 190 pounds (86 kilograms). He lives at the Hobart Arms, on Franklin Ave. near N. Kenmore Ave.His office is two miles away at #615 on the 6th floor of the Cahuenga Building, which is located on Hollywood Boulevardmarker near Ivar. North Ivar Avenue is between North Cahuenga Boulevard to the west and Vine Street to the east. The office telephone number is GLenview 7537. Marlowe's office is modest and he doesn't have a secretary (unlike his contemporary, Sam Spade). He generally refuses to take divorce cases.

He smokes and prefers Camels. At home, he sometimes smokes a pipe. An adept chess player, he almost exclusively plays against himself.

He drinks whiskey or brandy frequently and in relatively large quantities. For example, in The High Window, he gets out a bottle of Four Roses, and pours glasses of the blended American whiskey for himself, for Det. Lt. Breeze and for Spangler. At other times he is drinking Old Forester, a Kentucky bourbon: "I hung up and fed myself a slug of Old Forester to brace my nerves for the interview. As I was inhaling it I heard her steps tripping along the corridor." (The Little Sister)

Marlowe is adept at using liquor to loosen the tongues of people from whom he needs to extract information. An example is in The High Window, when Marlowe finally persuades the detective-lieutenant, whose "solid old face was lined and grey with fatigue", to take a drink and thereby loosen up and give out. "Breeze looked at me very steadily. Then he sighed. Then he picked the glass up and tasted it and sighed again and shook his head sideways with a half smile; the way a man does when you give him a drink and he needs it very badly and it is just right and the first swallow is like a peek into a cleaner, sunnier, brighter world." See also Marlowe's interrogation of Jessie Florian in Farewell My Lovely.

He makes good coffee, eschewing the use of filters (see Farewell My Lovely). He takes his coffee with cream in the mornings, but has it black at other times.

At the time of writing he was probably carrying a 9x19mm Parabellum Luger P08 pistol, but switched to a .32 ACP Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless, then to a .38 Special Smith & Wesson Model 10 . Phillip Marlowe also carried a Model 1911 semi-automatic pistol chambered in .38 Super in the book The High Window.

See also Raymond Chandler, Novels and Other Writings (Library of America, 1995, ISBN 1-883011-08-6) for other letters.

Influences and adaptations

  • Marlowe has appeared in short stories and novels by writers other than Chandler, such as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration (1988).
  • The central character in Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective is crime novelist Philip E. Marlow, portrayed in the original TV version by Michael Gambon and in the later film version by Robert Downey, Jr.
  • The female sleuths of the anthology Tart Noir (Berkeley, 2002) are described as "half Philip Marlowe, half femme fatale".
  • Marlowe is referenced in the lyrics to Burton Cummings's 1979 song "Dream of a Child" and Mark Knopfler's homage to him in the song "Private Investigations" by the Dire Straits.
  • In the Count Duckula episode Private Beak, Duckula adopts the pseudonym of Philip Mallard, as a spoof of Marlowe.
  • Zoot Marlowe in the works of Mel Gilden (Surfing Samurai Robots, Hawaiian UFO Aliens, and Tubular Android Superheroes) is an alien parody of Philip Marlowe.
  • Frank Miller, author of the Sin City graphic novels, described the character of Dwight McCarthy as a 'modern iteration of Philip Marlowe' in the sense that he is a character attempting to do what is right to find his place in the world.
  • Poet Owen Hill's first mystery novel (2002) introduces Clay Blackburn, an updated version of Marlowe; the novel's title is a nod to his main influence: "The Chandler Apartments."
  • In the film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid the hero Rigby Reardon has an assistant called Philip Marlowe. The character is portrayed using old footage from Humphrey Bogart films in which he played a number of different characters, including Marlowe.
  • The two main characters of Kamen Rider Double are references to Marlowe; Shotaro Hidari is visually stylised after him being a "hardboiled detective", and Phillipe is named after him. In addition, Shotaro flicks through a copy of The Long Goodbye in the first episode.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Big Goodbye (obviously in reference to The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye), a computer malfunction traps Picard, Data, and Beverly in a 1940s Dixon Hill detective story holodeck program. Dixon Hill is an homage to such characters as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, among others.

Marlowe bibliography

Works by Raymond Chandler

  • "Finger Man" (1934), (short story): This story originally featured an unnamed narrator, identified as "Carmady" in subsequent stories, and later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • "Goldfish" (1936), (short story): This story originally featured Carmady, later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • "Red Wind" (1938), (short story): This story originally featured John Dalmas, later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • "Trouble Is My Business" (1939) (short story): This story originally featured John Dalmas, later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • The Big Sleep (1939)
  • Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
  • The High Window (1942)
  • The Lady in the Lake (1943)
  • The Little Sister (1949)
  • The Simple Art of Murder (1950) (short story collection)
  • The Long Goodbye (1953)
  • Playback (1958)
  • Poodle Springs (left unfinished at Chandler's death in 1959; completed by Robert B. Parker, 1989)
  • "The Pencil" (AKA "Marlowe Takes On the Syndicate", "Wrong Pigeon", and "Philip Marlowe's Last Case") (1959), (short story): Chandler's last completed work about Marlowe, his first Marlowe short story in more than twenty years, and the first short story originally written about Marlowe.

Works by others

  • Triste, solitario y final (by Osvaldo Soriano, 1974. Marlowe appears as a character of the novel)
  • Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: a Centennial Celebration (collection of short stories by other writers, ed. Byron Preiss, 1988, ISBN 1-59687-847-9, and 1999, ISBN 0-671-03890-7, with two new stories)
  • Poodle Springs (by Robert B. Parker, 1990, Parker's completion of a manuscript Chandler left unfinished when he died)
  • Perchance to Dream (by Robert B. Parker, 1991, written as a sequel to Chandler's The Big Sleep)
  • Orange Curtain (by John Shannon; Marlowe appears in retirement as a real person used as the model for Chandler's novels)
  • The Singing Detective (by Dennis Potter; Postmodern pastiche of Chandler in which the protagonist shares his name with Marlowe)
  • Zoot Marlowe in the works of Mel Gilden (Surfing Samurai Robots, Hawaiian UFO Aliens, and Tubular Android Superheroes) is an alien homage to Phillip Marlowe.

Film adaptations

Radio and television adaptations

See also


  1. The New Yorker.
  2. Philip Marlowe, Private Eye at IMDb

External links


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