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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Turning Clocks Back In 1975

Mitchum Is Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

I went and saw this at least four times in 1975. It was like they'd gone out and made a brand new old movie. The thing was retro to a fault. You could almost forget in hindsight that it was done in color. Robert Mitchum would finally play Philip Marlowe ... in fact, it may have been a first time he'd been a detective ... but wait, there was Out Of The Past, nearly thirty years before. Mitch had stiff competition through the 60's from younger blood like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, who scarved up parts he might have done, and better. They were just younger enough to knock Bob out of games, which was perhaps why he spoke dismissively of McQueen in at least one interview. Well, Mitchum had thirteen years on Steve, and all of them showed. And he'd done a lot of bad pictures. Mister Moses and Anzio weren't going to unseat The Cincinnati Kid and Bullitt. Mitchum was being embraced by hipsters during the 70's. They knew he smoked weed and had once been convicted for it, so he was one old man that was OK. Some of his relic movies held up fine too. Mitchum had an attitude that wore well, and he still looked presentable, as in rugged and up to romantic parts if offered. Farewell, My Lovely had some of both. He'd smack guys around and bed Charlotte Rampling, who was of our generation. She was a ringer in some ways to Lauren Bacall, maybe or maybe not a good thing. To me, her cat eyes were a little scary. But she melted into arms of this elder man, 58 at the time, which was seriously old to mine eyes in 1975. Now, of course, I'm much reassured by Bob's prowess at such venerable age.

Partial reward to Mitch was invite to host Saturday Night Live, but they didn't know what to do with him beyond weirdly satirizing Out Of The Past. I think RM did more private-eyeing in the 70/80's than he had in accumulation of work up to then. These would eventually peter to TV "movies" and dreadful cheapies gone direct to video, but if you watched HBO or Showtime closely, you could catch Mitch in all sorts of degraded circumstance. The nadir came with an NBC sitcom opposite bratty kids. Surely this wasn't for anything other than money. Features seemed done with Bob, other than supporting eccentrics like Bill Murray or Johnny Depp. Farewell, My Lovely may have been his last real roar, and I'm not forgetting a second Marlowe go, which was The Big Sleep remade in modern dress, and in England, but those were two strikes that put Mitch largely out. Who wanted to see him in ugly wide ties like men wore in the 70's? TV did confer a biggest latter comeback with Winds Of War and Remembrance or whatever, and those were like trips back too, only long and sorta dull as doled over sweeps weeks. By this time (early 80's), Mitchum was about the only guy left who looked like he could actually win a war, with or without help from puny players in support.

Farewell, My Lovely could make you forget all those years since they'd made good movies. At least that's how I felt at age 21, but then I had considerable growing up to do. 1974 found me buying a corduroy trench coat that was a ringer for something Mitch or Bogart would wear. Chances are I was clad in it to one/more of the Farewell screenings. A couple of sizes too big at the time, I was ten more years growing into it. Fits fine now. Thank heaven old stars didn't start me smoking cigarettes. I had tried it after screen examples, but one inhale settled hash. These really were tough guys for being able to draw smoke clear down to lungs. Well, they ruined theirs and I've still got mine, so there was at least that advantage to lacking man-up for cigs. Farewell, My Lovely cast other vets besides Mitchum. There was John Ireland as a police detective, always talking about "heat from upstairs." Here was a show determined to be old-fashioned, which was exactly what I wanted then and still enjoy now. David Shire did a score keyed to jazzy and mournful, saluting a past we'd not get back in spite of game tries like Farewell, My Lovely. There was a CD that's now out of print, much like the movie on DVD, which I now note sells for $75 and upward on Amazon. FML does stream in HD at Apple-I Tunes.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I remember clearly the moment I first saw this film. Like yourself I was high from the sheer rightness of every frame. They just do not get better than this.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very special movie, better even, than many of the noirs it is modeled after. I sometimes wonder if many of the private-eye clich├ęs we associate with the genre, like the jazz score, the neon, dangerous females and crooked cops, and even the voiceover narration didn't actually originate here. If the older movies contained these elements, they weren't as prevalent as here, and not a one of them, as far as I know, hosted all of them, like this film does.

Too bad indeed that Mitchum didn't get that Oscar nomination. Maybe that would have given him the clout with the front office to refuse those wide ties and demand his trenchcoat back when was time to remake "Big Sleep"

9:16 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Aside from the pleasure of watching Mitchum (even an older version such as this) in a role he was born to play, Farewell My Lovely has that wonderfully lyrical musical score by David Shire.

It seems to speak to the soul of a man like Marlowe walking alone at the night on LA streets. There's a beauty, as well as a hint of sadness, to its medley.

Shire's score is not as dramatic as many of those '40s film noir scores by Rosza. It seems more in keeping with the leisurely walk of someone like Mitchum's Marlowe, a man who's seen it all, expects little in life but is ready to right a wrong if given the opportunity.

8:27 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon has some thoughts on Robert Mitchum and "Farewell, My Lovely":

As for the Mitchum "Farewell, My Lovely", I have to see that some time. I missed it, and have never seen it. It is sad that Mitchum was just old enough...or, young enough is the real point, when he started...that he was sort of forced to lend his presence and talents to some piss-poor movies and TV shows at the dwindling end of his career. Whether his life style dictated this need to work, or whether it was a desire to work that he ALWAYS ridiculed and denied in his public appearances, I for one do not know. I do know that I saw a jaw-droopingly horrible 'biographical' TV movie done on the cheap starring Casper Van Diem (I think is his name?) as...ready?...James Dean (oh, yes.) And, in the course of this thing, something that could only be rivaled by Keefe Brasselle as Eddie Cantor, "George Stevens" eventually appears, incarnated most inappropriately (as possible, I'd say) by a real end-of-the-line Bob Mitchum. By this point his great face is emaciated and caved-in, the false teeth or whatever they were he was eating his chow with by now appearing to have been borrowed from a horse. Yet, I'll tell you...he does his scenes with complete professionalism and as if this is as good a film as he's ever been in. And, in Mitch's opinion, that was probably true! Ha! Sadly, in some ways, Mitchum as in the alcoholic's club, but I am not aware of this ever fouling up any production he appeared in, certainly not to the extent of say Errol Flynn, who we also love, but...y'know...caused producers a lot of problems.


9:11 AM  

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