The Adventures of Philip Marlowe - The Grim Hunters by Raymond Chandler

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Retro Radio Podcast, February 2012
Sometimes it's fun to listen to your favourite characters from the past being reinterpreted in different ways. After Ed Bishop and Toby Stephens, in two memorable BBC versions of Chandler from the 1970s and the 2000s, I went back in time to listen to a CBS broadcast, originally aired on March 12, 1949, in which Marlowe was played by Gerald Mohr, pounding the Los Angeles streets in search of felons, aided and abetted by the Chief of Police (Jeff Corey).
This episode began with the famous lines, prefacing every episode of the CBS series: "Get this, and get is straight! Crime is a sucker's road and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison or the grave." In this story, drawing on Chandler's characters, but not penned by him, Marlowe was drawn into a scavenger party as one of the items on the list. Needless to say, things did not turn out quite what they same, and our hero became embroiled in a complex tale involving blackmail, a couple of deaths and a femme fatale who proved too attractive to resist.
All familiar ingredients, to be sure; but what made this Marlowe interesting was Mohr's performance. This was not the cynical old hack of Bishop, nor the tough-talking idealist of Stephens; but someone dedicated to his job - eradicating crime from the streets of LA. This Marlowe did not have any particular quarrels with the police; on the contrary, he was glad to help them in any way he could (even if that meant solving the case before them). He could certainly take care of himself in a fight, but he wasn't the kind of tough guy who went in with fists first, and asked questions later. Cases had to be solved by patient questioning rather than intimidation.
The music was rather quaint, with several deft chords played on a Hammond organ to increase the suspense linking each short scene. This revealed the origins of the CBS broadcast in melodrama, with the music setting the mood as well as helping to determine the listeners' perception of the 'good' and 'bad' characters.
Listening to this broadcast, I was struck by its slickness - the swift narrative that got the entire tale told in a 25-minute slot, interspersed with commercials for forthcoming CBS broadcasts, including the return of Jack Benny "and the Gang." Sometimes a dose of old-time radio is extremely useful, if only to remind us of just how good dramas have been in the past.