6 Big Changes Marlowe Made to Noir Fiction
Based on John Banville's 2014 novel, Marlowe's movie differs markedly from the original. We break down the biggest changes.
Warning: This post contains major spoilers for 2023’s Marlowe
^ Marloweis is based on John Banville's 2014 novel The Black-Eyed Blonde, and there are stark differences between the film and the noir novel. Directed by Neil Jordan and written by William Monaghan, Marlowe stars Liam Neeson as Philip Marlowe, a private eye tasked with uncovering a disappearance and beginning to uncover stories involving drug lords and The femme fatale's web of intrigue.
Marlowe excerpted several pages from Banville's book, which itself was a continuation of the work Raymond Chandler began in creating the characters, which helped usher in the grim crime fiction genre. As with any adaptation, there will be some details and subplots that get set aside. Of course, Monaghan, best known for writing The Departed, gave Marlow creative freedom, choosing what to take from the source material and what to leave out. Overall, Marlowe remains fairly faithful to Banville's novel for the most part, but there are enough changes to make it stand out.
Marlowe's story takes place in Bay City in 1939, while The Black-Eyed Blonde's story takes place in the 1950s. The latter is set in the 1950s because it follows Takes place in Chandler's 1953 novel The Long Goodbye. Setting it before that book comes out doesn't make sense for the story. On the other hand, the film pays homage to Philip Marlowe's original story, set in the 1930s, where the character first emerged in popular culture as a uniquely grim crime drama.
6 The Black-Eyed Blonde Is Set In The 1950s
In Marlowe, Diane Kruger plays Claire Cavendish, an heiress and wealthy daughter of one-time Hollywood actress Dorothy Quincannon. In Banville's book, however, Claire is a perfume heiress, and her mother, Dorothy Langrischer, was a first-generation Irish immigrant whose husband died in the Irish Civil War. Here, Dorothy is not an actress but has made her fortune through the perfume business.
5 Clare & Dorothy’s Backstories Are Different
More importantly, Claire has a drug-addicted brother in the novel who almost dies of an overdose. Their wealth is so great that Claire will stop at nothing to maintain the wealth and the power of the family. What's more, Claire is in love with someone who isn't Nico, and in Marlowe, the two are indeed lovers, even if they aren't that close.
Throughout Marlowe, Claire Cavendish flirts with Philip Marlowe, and she doesn't try to hide what she's doing. However, Marlowe knows this because she is trying to glean information from him about the case and keep him on the hunt for answers about Nico Peterson's disappearance. Despite appearances, Marlowe's script makes clear that there is sexual tension between them, even though the private eye must constantly remind Claire (and possibly himself and the audience) that he is much bigger than her.
4 Clare & Marlowe Have A Brief Romance
In Black-Eyed Blonde, Philip Marlowe is younger than Liam Neeson, so the age difference between him and Claire isn't much of an issue. What's more, the two had a brief romance in the novel and even slept together. Later, after realizing who she's working with, Marlowe wonders if Claire sleeping with him was just part of her plan. Unlike the film, where the private eye grows attached to Claire and develops feelings for her, though not enough to stop him from doing his job, in the film adaptation he remains largely detached from her flirtations.
In Marlowe, Liam Neeson's character and Alan Cumming plays nightclub owner Lou Hendrix. Hendricks loves to talk, and it has been revealed that he has ties to the drug industry as well as ambassadors. His driver, Cedric, ended up shooting Marlowe in the final third. In the books, Hendricks is a casino owner, though he's still heavily involved in the drug cartels. Hendricks also has a fake British accent, but in Marlowe he speaks with a southern accent.
3 Lou Hendricks Is A Casino Owner
Marlow spends most of the film looking for answers about Nico's fake death and his whereabouts, only to have Nico find him. He sends a private eye a message to pass on to Claire, and the two end up meeting at the prop warehouse, where he reveals that he has records of every sale from the ambassador's drug business. In the novel, even the contents of the suitcase are different, and the ledger is exchanged for heroin.
2 Nico Gives The Suitcase To Marlowe, Not Clare
Nico never had this exchange with Clare - instead, he met Marlowe at the train station and handed him the suitcase, revealing that his and Hanson's plan was to be with someone who would pay him more work together drug. Marlowe agrees to hand over the suitcase to Hansen. In the crime novel, Nico is not Claire's lover, but the son of the owner of the country club where Hansen works. Since Claire and Nico didn't end up meeting at the prop warehouse, she didn't shoot him and he ended up leaving South America before anything happened.
As previously stated, the events of the Black-Eyed Blonde take place after The Long Farewell, and certain characters have direct ties to that book, but do not appear in Marlowe's film adaptation. So the biggest difference from the novel is that Claire Cavendish's lover is Terry Lennox, an old friend of Marlowe who is believed to have committed suicide. However, it turns out that Claire urged Marlowe to find Nico and the suitcase, since it belonged to Lennox.
1 Clare Cavendish’s Lover Is Marlowe’s Old Friend
It was that tip that leaked the entire plot to the private investigator and helped him solve the case in the book. It was revealed that Lennox had been working with gang member Menny Menendez and was living in Mexico after his fake death. Here's a personal connection with Marlowe that sums it all up nicely in "The Black-Eyed Blonde," and as the final conclusion to "The Long Goodbye." This is the personal sidekick that Marlowe ends up missing because it was written out of the movie.
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