Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Philip Marlowe is a fictional private eye created by Raymond Chandler in a series of detective novels including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Marlowe's character is typical of a genre of hardboiled crime fiction that originated with Dashiell Hammett and Black Mask magazine in the 1920s where the private eye is a pessimistic and cynical observer of a corrupt society. Yet the enduring appeal of Marlowe and other "hard-boiled dicks" like Hammett's Sam Spade lies in their tarnished idealism.
Underneath the wisecracking, hard-drinking, tough private eye, Marlowe is quietly contemplative, chess-playing, and philosophical. While he is not afraid to risk physical harm, he does not dish out violence merely to settle scores. Morally upright, he is not bamboozled by the genre's usual femme fatales, like Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep. As Chandler wrote about his detective ideal in general, "He might seduce a countess; he would not despoil a virgin."
Marlowe has been played on the screen by Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Elliot Gould, Danny Glover, and James Caan. On radio, in The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, the character was portrayed by Van Heflin on NBC (June 17-September 9, 1947) and by Gerald Mohr on CBS (September 26, 1948-September 15, 1951).
Marlowe has proved such a complex and attractive character that he has appeared in short stories and novels by writers other than Chandler, such as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration (1988).
crime fiction for an overview
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