BBC Radio 4, 1 October 2011
Another in Radio 4's series of remakes of the complete Chandler canon,
with Toby Stephens as Marlowe. Interestingly I felt that Claire Grove's production was stylistically very different from previous
entries in the series; this resembled a chamber-piece, with a small ensemble (seven actors) engaging in lengthy dialogues
linked by Marlowe's characteristically laconic narrative. There were few sound-effects directing listeners' attention from
the words - for example, the sound of bourbon being poured into glasses, followed by the chink-chink of ice cubes.
Grove's strategy was especially suited to The Long Goodbye (1953); while
the novel contains the familiar Chandleresque cocktail of convoluted plots, sporadic violence and memorable characters, it
lets Marlowe develop close relationships with his clients, especially Terry Lennox (aka Paul Marsden) (Trevor White), a war
hero fallen on hard times, who respects the detective yet keeps him perpetually at arm's length. In Grove's production Marlowe
tried to brush Lennox off, dismissing him as a hapless alcoholic, but found himself strangely drawn towards this wreck of
man, whose face had been disfigured by a shell during the Second World War, and had never recovered from the ordeal. Marlowe's
voice became softer, almost lyrical, as he recalled his exchanges with Lennox.
Marlowe found himself equally beguiled by Roger Wade (Peter Polycarpou), a best-selling
novelist turning to the bottle in a vain attempt to deal with depression. Marlowe began by spitting his lines out, as he recalled
the author's wantonly self-indulgent behaviour, but when Wade met a violent end at his wife Eileen's (Saskia Reeves') hands,
Marlowe's voice almost cracked with emotion, as he guiltily realized that he had not done what Wade had asked him to.
Grove's production revealed a very different Marlowe - although endeavouring to sustain
a cynical exterior, he found it more and more difficult to keep his feelings out of his work. This was not the hard-boiled
private dick of The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely; but a much more vulnerable personality, conscious
of his failings. This approach made for fascinating listening: I have to admit that Stephens has grown on me throughout the
series. The actor gives a fresh interpretation to familiar material, supported by a highly competent cast.