Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Day 43: "The Lady in the Lake"

Director: Robert Montgomery 1946
At least nine actors--as different as Bogart and Elliott Gould--have played Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's knight-errant, the private eye who "down these mean streets a man must go, who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid." Robert Montgomery was the right age (42) to play Marlowe, and he had the right looks. Yet "The Lady in the Lake" is a gimmicky failure, interesting for a few minutes, then annoying. The reason: Montgomery chose to shoot the movie with a subjective camera. With the exceptions of a few awkward scenes in which Marlowe addresses the camera, and a couple of glimpses of Marlowe looking into a mirror, the story is seen through the detective's eyes. The actors talk to the camera--and talk and talk. When femme-fatale Audrey Totter kisses "Marlowe," she is really kissing the camera lens. Erotic it ain't. Totter is good, as is Lloyd Nolan (famous for playing Mike Shayne, a less-literary PI). But the movie drags. Someone someday should make a better version of Chandler's book.
Interesting trivia: Lila Leeds plays a sexy receptionist. In 1948, she was arrested with Robert Mitchum during a legendary pot party in Hollywood. Mitchum, of course, would go on to play Marlowe in "Farewell, My Lovely" (not bad) and a remake of "The Big Sleep" (absolutely awful).


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