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Philip Marlowe

Philip Marlowe
Philip Marlowe character
First appearance Finger Man (short story)
The Big Sleep (novel)
Last appearance The Pencil (short story)
Poodle Springs (novel)
Created by Raymond Chandler
Gender Male
Occupation Private detective
Nationality American

Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler. 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 similar 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. His first two stories, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot" and "Smart-Aleck Kill" (with a detective named Mallory), were never altered in print but did join the others as Marlowe cases for the television series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Marlowe's character is foremost within the genre of hardboiled crime fiction that originated in the 1920s, 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 fatales, such as Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep.

Chandler's treatment of the detective novel exhibits an effort to develop the form. His first full–length book, The Big Sleep, was published when Chandler was 51; his last, Playback when he was 70. Seven novels were produced in the last two decades of his life, with an eighth (Poodle Springs) being posthumously completed by Robert B. Parker and published years later.


  • Inspiration 1
  • Biographical notes 2
  • Influences and adaptations 3
  • Marlowe bibliography 4
    • Works by Raymond Chandler 4.1
    • Authorized works by other writers 4.2
    • Film adaptations 4.3
    • Radio and television adaptations 4.4
    • Videogame adaptations 4.5
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7
    • Audio 7.1


Explaining the origin of Marlowe's character, Chandler commented that "Marlowe just grew out of the pulps. He was no one person."[1] When creating the character, Chandler had originally intended to call him Mallory; his stories for the Black Mask magazine featured characters that are considered precursors to Marlowe. The emergence of Marlowe coincided with Chandler's transition from writing short stories to novels.[2]

Chandler was said[3] to have taken the name Marlowe from Marlowe House, to which he belonged during his time at Dulwich College. Marlowe House was named for Christopher Marlowe, a hard-drinking Elizabethan writer who graduated in philosophy and worked secretly for the government.

Louise Ransil, a historian and former studio executive, has claimed that the character of Philip Marlowe, as well as Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, were inspired by a previously unknown black detective who investigated society murders and runaway stars in 1930s Los Angeles.[4] This man with the name of "Samuel Marlowe" allegedly was the first black private detective licensed by the city of Los Angeles.[4]

Biographical notes

Ed Bishop had the title role in BBC Radio's Philip Marlowe radio drama series.

Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler in a series of novels including The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Goodbye. Chandler is not consistent as to Marlowe's age. In The Big Sleep where the story occurs in 1936, he makes him 33, while in The Long Goodbye (set fourteen years later) Marlowe is 42. In a letter to D. J. Ibberson of 19 April 1951, Chandler noted among other things that Marlowe is 38 years old and was born in Santa Rosa, California. 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 6 feet (180 cm) tall and weighs about 190 pounds (86 kg). He first lived at the Hobart Arms, on Franklin Avenue near North Kenmore Avenue (in The Big Sleep), but then moved to the Bristol Hotel, where he stayed for about ten years. By 1950 (in The Long Goodbye) he has rented a house on Yucca Avenue and continued at the same place in early 1952 in Playback, the last full-length Chandler Marlowe novel.

His office, originally on the 7th floor of an unnamed building in 1936, is at #615 on the sixth floor of the Cahuenga Building by March/April 1939 (the date of Farewell, My Lovely), which is on Hollywood Boulevard 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 Sam Spade). He generally refuses to take divorce cases.

He smokes and prefers Camels. At home he sometimes smokes a pipe. A chess adept, he almost exclusively plays against himself, or plays games from books.

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 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) However, in Playback he orders a double Gibson at a bar while tailing Betty Mayfield. Also, in The Long Goodbye, he and Terry Lennox drink Gimlets.

Marlowe is adept at using liquor to loosen peoples' tongues. 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."

He frequently drinks coffee. Eschewing the use of filters (see Farewell My Lovely), he uses a vacuum coffee maker (see The Long Goodbye, chapter 5). He takes his coffee with cream in the mornings but has it black at other times.

Influences and adaptations

  • In the pilot episode of Bored to Death the main character Jonathan Ames (played by Jason Schwartzman) reads Farewell My Lovely and uses the name Philip Marlowe as a pseudonym.
  • 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.
  • Marlowe is referenced in the lyrics to Burton Cummings' 1979 song "Dream of a Child" and Dire Straits' "Private Investigations".
  • The two main characters of the film Radioactive Dreams are named Philip and Marlowe; Philip narrates it in a similar style as Chandler's novels.
  • 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 Jean-Luc Picard, Data, and Beverly Crusher 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.
  • In Kamen Rider W, Sokichi Narumi gives Raito Sonozaki the name "Philip" due to his fondness of Philip Marlowe.
  • Smart Philip (2003): Criminal comedy inspired by Chandler's work with Tomáš Hanák as Philip Marlowe.
  • In Mel Gilden's Surfing Samurai Robots and its sequels, the protagonist is an alien drawn to earth by radio adaptations of Chandler's work who adopts the persona of Zoot Marlowe.
  • In the Japanese TV series Juunen Saki Mo Kimi Ni Koishiteru (I'll Still Love You In 10 Years), the female protagonist's ideal type of man is Philip Marlowe. Her husband who travels from the future dresses up like him.

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.

Authorized works by other writers

Marlowe, as he appeared in volume 9 of Detective Conan

Film adaptations

Mitchum as Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1978)

Radio and television adaptations

Videogame adaptations

  • Philip Marlowe: Private Eye, Byron Preiss (developer), Simon & Schuster (publisher), 1 January 1997

See also


  1. ^ Lid 1969, p. 158
  2. ^ Lid 1969, pp. 158–159
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^ Philip Marlowe, Private Eye at IMDb

External links


  • (90 episodes)The Adventures of Philip MarloweFree OTR:
  • (63 episodes)The Adventures of Philip MarloweOTR Network Library:
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