Philip Marlowe

Philip Marlowe (/ˈmɑːrl/) 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".

Philip Marlowe
Philip Marlowe character
Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe, with Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge in The Big Sleep
First appearanceFinger Man (short story)
The Big Sleep (novel)
Last appearanceThe Pencil (short story)
Poodle Springs (unfinished novel, completed by Robert B. Parker
Created byRaymond Chandler
Portrayed byDick Powell (film, radio, TV)
Humphrey Bogart (film)
Van Heflin (radio)
Robert Montgomery (film, radio)
George Montgomery (film)
Gerald Mohr (radio)
Philip Carey (TV)
James Garner (film)
Elliott Gould (film)
Robert Mitchum (film)
Ed Bishop (BBC radio)
Powers Boothe (TV)
Danny Glover (TV)
James Caan (HBO film)
Jason O'Mara (TV pilot)
Toby Stephens (BBC radio)
OccupationPrivate detective

Some of those short stories were later combined and expanded into novels featuring Marlowe, a process Chandler called "cannibalizing" but is more commonly known in publishing as a fixup. 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. An eighth, Poodle Springs, was completed posthumously by Robert B. Parker and published years later.


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.

Biographical notes

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, set in 1936, Marlowe's age is given as 33, while in The Long Goodbye (set fourteen years later) Marlowe is 42. In a letter to D. J. Ibberson of April 19, 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 about seventy-three and a half inches (187 cm) tall and weighs about 190 pounds (86 kg). He wears colorful clothes, introducing himself to readers in The Big Sleep as wearing a powder blue suit with a dark blue shirt and patterned socks. 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 seventh 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.

Typical of classic private eyes, Marlowe is the eternal bachelor in all of the novels. But in the opening paragraphs of Poodle Springs he has just married Linda Loring, the divorced daughter of the press tycoon Harlan Potter. He knows her from The Long Goodbye, where they spent one night together, and from Playback, where she, after one and a half years, surprisingly called him from Paris and proposed to him ("I'm asking you to marry me").

Influences and adaptations

Marlowe bibliography

Original short stories by Raymond Chandler later republished to feature Philip Marlowe

  • Blackmailers Don't Shoot (December 1933, Black Mask; lead character originally named Mallory)
  • Smart-Aleck Kill (July 1934, Black Mask; Mallory)
  • Finger Man (October 1934, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Killer in the Rain (January 1935, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Nevada Gas (June 1935, Black Mask)
  • Spanish Blood (November 1935, Black Mask)
  • Guns at Cyrano's (January 1936, Black Mask; Ted Malvern)
  • The Man Who Liked Dogs (March 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Noon Street Nemesis (May 30, 1936, Detective Fiction Weekly; aka "Pick-up on Noon Street")
  • Goldfish (June 1936, Black Mask)
  • The Curtain (September 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Try the Girl (January 1937, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • Mandarin's Jade (November 1937, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • Red Wind (January 1938, Dime Detective: John Dalmas)
  • The King in Yellow (March 1938, Dime Detective)
  • Bay City Blues (June 1938; Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • The Lady in the Lake (January 1939, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • Pearls Are a Nuisance (April 1939, Dime Detective)
  • Trouble Is My Business (August 1939, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • I'll Be Waiting (October 14, 1939, Saturday Evening Post)
  • The Bronze Door (November 1939)
  • No Crime in the Mountains (September 1941, Detective Story, John Evans)

Original Philip Marlowe works by Raymond Chandler

Authorized works by other writers

  • El Diez Por Ciento de Vida by Hiber Conteris (Spain, 1985), English translation as Ten Percent of Life by Deborah Bergmann(1987, ISBN 9-780671-634193). Marlowe probes the 1956 "suicide" of a Hollywood literary agent, one of whose clients is Raymond Chandler.
  • Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, ed. Byron Preiss (1988, ISBN 1-59687-847-9; extended edition 1999, ISBN 0-671-03890-7); reprints The Pencil alongside Philip Marlowe stories by other authors:
  • The Perfect Crime by Max Allan Collins
  • The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin M. Schutz
  • Gun Music by Loren D. Estleman
  • Saving Grace by Joyce Harrington
  • Maliby Tag Team by Jonathan Valin
  • Sad-Eyed Blonde by Dick Lochte
  • The Empty Sleeve by W. R. Philbrick
  • Dealer's Choice by Sara Paretsky
  • Red Rock by Julie Smith
  • The Deepest South by Paco Igancio Taibo II
  • Consultation in the Dark by Francis M. Nevins, Jr
  • In the Jungle of Cities by Roger L. Simon
  • Star Bright by John Lutz
  • Stardust Kill by Simon Brett
  • Locker 246 by Robert J. Randisi
  • Bitter Lemons by Stuart M. Kaminsky
  • The Man Who Knew Dick Bong by Robert Crais
  • Essence D'Orient by Edward D. Hoch
  • In The Line of Duty by Jeremiah Healey
  • The Alibi by Ed Gorman
  • The Devil's Playground by James Grady
  • Asia by Eric Van Lustbader
  • Mice by Robert Campbell
  • Sixty-Four Squares by J. Madison Davis (1999 edition)
  • Summer In Idle Valley by Roger L. Simon (1999 edition)
  • Poodle Springs (1989, ISBN 0-399-13482-4), by Robert B. Parker. An authorized completion of Chandler's unfinished last work; the original text 'The Poodle Springs Story' had been published alongside excerpts from Chandler's letters, notes and essays in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1971), by Dorothy Gardener and Katherine Sorley Walker. New York: Books for Library Press.
  • Perchance to Dream (1991, ISBN 0-399-13580-4), by Robert B. Parker. An authorized sequel to Chandler's The Big Sleep.
  • The Black-Eyed Blonde (2014), by John Banville writing as "Benjamin Black,"[4] is an authorized sequel to The Long Goodbye, and reuses the title of Benjamin M. Schutz's otherwise-unrelated Marlowe story.
  • Only to Sleep (2018), by Lawrence Osborne, finds the elderly Marlowe in Mexico in 1988, investigating the “accidental” swimming death of a debt-ridden con man/developer.

Film adaptations

Radio and television adaptations

Video game adaptations

See also


  • Lid, R. W. (1969), "Philip Marlowe Speaking", The Kenyon Review, Kenyon College, 31 (2): 153–178, JSTOR 4334891


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