Friday, May 22, 2020

WATCH IT HERE! Forgotten Books on Film: THE FALCON TAKES OVER / Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (1942)


In honor of this flick appearing on YouTube, I treated myself to another trip through Farewell, My Lovely. It had been too long, and reading it again was a real joy. 

The Falcon Takes Over, as you may know, was the first film adaptation of the novel. And it's a very loose one. The Marlowe role, of course, went to George Sanders as Gay Lawrence, aka the Falcon. The bare bones of the plot survives more or less intact, as do the main characters - and most of them even have the same names. The major exception is Mrs. Grayle (the slinky blonde of the book), reborn as Diana Kenyon. Instead of the unfaithful wife of an elderly rich dude, she's now a playful society gal. 


The film sidesteps all of the more unsavory elements of the book. The blacks-only bar of the book is a swanky white night club. When the owner is killed in the first scene, there's no question of it being merely a "shine" killing. The marijuana cigarettes of the novel are replaced by a business card. Unlike Marlowe, who does a lot of drinking, the Falcon never touches a drop before sundown (and never at all in this film). And because the blonde is single, there's no hint of adultery. In the book, she plans to do the do with Marlowe, while the most she surrenders to the Falcon is a smooch. 

There are shortcuts, of course. Marlowe's two-day ordeal, pumped full of dope in a private sanitarium, is eliminated, as are lengthy scenes on a gambling ship. Some character backstories are shifted a bit, and motivations altered, but all the same people are murdered, and everything comes out pretty much the same in the end. But it's still nowhere near as good as the first serious adaptation of the book, which came along two years later in Murder, My Sweet. 

This was my first Falcon movie, and my biggest disappointment was George Sanders. Except for a single scene, he acts bored with it all, making him the least interesting character in the film. He sleepwalks through his scenes, mumbles his lines, displaying a complete lack of personality. Luckily, he's surrounded by a lively cast and healthy helpings of comic relief. It's especially fun seeing future wagonmaster Ward Bond as Moose Malloy.

But don't believe me. See for yourself . . .