Friday, May 18, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Farewell, My Lovely (1975) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival opened on Thursday evening, May 10th, with a screening of Robert Mitchum in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975). The screening was followed by a reception on the theater patio.

Our own day began well ahead of that, as my husband and I visited The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert early Thursday morning. Temps were hovering around 100 that day but we got in and out of the zoo early enough that it was a pleasant visit. I expect to share some photos at a future date.

Later we checked into our room at one of the official festival hotels, the Courtyard By Marriott, where we had a very good experience again this year, and we also stopped for dinner at Bill's Pizza, which we've never found less than excellent. Then it was off to the Camelot Theatres, now known as the Palm Springs Cultural Center, for opening night!

Jack O'Halloran, who memorably plays Moose Malloy in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, was the night's special guest, and I was quite thrilled to meet him. O'Halloran, who made his screen debut in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, shortly thereafter played the scary villain Non in SUPERMAN (1978) and SUPERMAN II (1980). As I wrote here back in 2006, SUPERMAN was a key film of my teen years, which I've seen numerous times, so it was great fun for me to meet someone from the cast. (Very sadly, SUPERMAN'S Lois Lane, Margot Kidder, would pass away later that same weekend, at the age of 69.) O'Halloran is pictured here before the screening with festival producer and host Alan K. Rode.

Before the screening the Mayor of Palm Springs welcomed us and shared the good news that the abandoned mall next to the Palm Springs Cultural Center would soon be razed and become a new campus for the College of the Desert. The new campus will include a digital media and film program. This was great to hear as the empty mall, pictured here, has always looked so forlorn since I began visiting the festival three years ago. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

This was my first time to see FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, with Mitchum starring as detective Philip Marlowe, based on the book by Raymond Chandler. It's set in 1941, with Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak providing a framing device which I especially enjoyed.

Marlowe is struggling along, getting older and barely scratching out a living, when a big lug named Moose Malloy (O'Halloran), newly released from several years in prison, pays Marlowe to search for his long-lost girlfriend, "my Velma." Marlowe starts the hunt, through the seedier parts of the city; simultaneously he's hired by someone else (John O'Leary) to ransom a jade necklace, which ultimately leads Marlowe to interact with the highest echelons of Los Angeles society. The two seemingly disparate cases will eventually merge in unexpected ways.

Along the way Marlowe meets with a host of interesting characters, including the Lauren Bacall-esque sexy wife (Charlotte Rampling) of an elderly judge (Jim Thompson); a boozy ex-nightclub singer (Oscar nominee Sylvia Miles); and the henchman (Sylvester Stallone) of an infamous madam (Kate Murtaugh). Keeping tabs on Marlowe is his old friend, the simultaneously exasperated and sympathetic Lt. Nulty (John Ireland), along with the less friendly -- and less ethical -- Detective Rolfe (Harry Dean Stanton).

The film reminded me a bit of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997), which came out a couple decades later and which I also just saw for the first time recently. Both films feature complex plots with many strands which somehow all tie back in with each other by movie's end, and both films also feature extensive location shooting in Los Angeles.

Each film is also fairly violent, which is one reason I'd skipped them up to this point. In each case those moments are telegraphed in advance and fairly easy to avoid watching; FAREWELL, MY LOVELY is bloody yet otherwise not very graphic.

While I'm focused on the "R" rated aspects I'll mention that the only aspect of FAREWELL, MY LOVELY I really didn't appreciate was some nudity; I sometimes think movies of the '70s did this more frequently than recent movies just because filmmakers wanted to push boundaries after the demise of the Production Code. These moments added nothing to the story, and I wish they'd been left on the cutting room floor.

Otherwise I found this film quite absorbing and enjoyable and was very glad I finally caught up with it. I especially enjoyed watching the two "old pros," Mitchum and Ireland, and their interactions. Ireland has a great moment near the end of the film where he decides being a good cop is more important than being on the take, and I wanted to cheer!

O'Halloran makes an unforgettable Moose Malloy, and it was also fun to see the young Stallone, just before he hit it big in ROCKY (1976).

Mitchum is in almost every scene, which means the movie is extremely watchable, because Mitchum is never less than an interesting actor. Add in L.A. locations and a baseball theme, and there was much for this viewer to enjoy.

FAREWELL, MY LOVELY was directed by Dick Richards and filmed by John A. Alonzo. It runs 95 minutes.

After the film O'Halloran sat for an interview with Alan Rode, which delved into his very interesting life, including boxing, acting, and learning that his father was mobster Albert Anastasia, a fact he discovered after Anastasia's death.

O'Halloran recounted that he had commented to Mitchum that maybe he should get acting lessons, and Mitchum in so many words told him he was doing fine and not to mess up the good thing he had going! O'Halloran spoke very highly of Mitchum as a person and a mentor.

In a nice bit of serendipity, O'Halloran shared that while they were filming Mitchum discovered a label in one of his suits which indicated it had previously been worn by Victor Mature. That was quite fun since Mature's daughter, Victoria, was in the audience Thursday evening.

I believe the complete interview should be available for viewing later in the year on the Film Noir Foundation website, so be on the lookout!

Now I'm quite curious to see Mitchum's second film as Marlowe, THE BIG SLEEP (1978), which fortunately was released on Blu-ray along with FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, just a few weeks ago. I've ordered it and hope to watch it soon! THE BIG SLEEP has a very interesting cast which includes Richard Boone and James Stewart along with Mitchum.

Coming soon: An overview of Friday's festival screenings and a review of Edmond O'Brien in THE WEB (1947), with more to follow!


Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, did Jack O'Halloran talk about another Dick Richards directed movie that he was in, MARCH OR DIE(1977)? I saw this movie in the theater and I saw it again on television in 1981. There were scenes in the TV version that weren't in the theatrical release. Also, with a different ending from the original theatrical release. I don't think the TV version has ever been released on VHS or DVD.

I saw THE BIG SLEEP(1978) on the big screen, staring Robert Mitchum, but I was disappointed and I haven't seen it since. I liked FAREWELL, MY LOVELY and I enjoyed your review.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Walter, I don't recall O'Halloran discussing MARCH OR DIE. He discussed some other films, including SUPERMAN, and having been in talks at one point to do THE GREAT WHITE HOPE (1970), which he didn't end up doing.

Curious what I'll think of THE BIG SLEEP compared to FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. I was disappointed that John Ireland's not in THE BIG SLEEP because I really enjoyed his interactions with Mitchum in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY.

Thanks so much for your comments!

Best wishes,

2:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Some additional info on John Ireland from commenter Barrylane which he invited me to share in a comment:

"Laura, Farewell My Lovely was probably John's final run at any kind of position in the film industry -- and by that I mean projects of some significance rather than simple exploitation. He recognized that and in exchange for equal star billing with Mitchum and Rampling cut his asking price for $25,000 to $10,000. That deal was made and honored but Ireland felt he had been double crossed when Sylvia was also elevated, making him one of four instead of three, and minimizing his importance. This was not a reflection on her performance or overall ability, but other than an Andy Warhol film, and I am not even positive of that, her name was always below the title."

Many thanks for adding that background info for all of us!

Best wishes,

12:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I saw the remake of The Big Sleep when it came out. Don't get your hopes up. It's nothing like Farewell, My Lovely and not even close to the original.

Dan Oliver

10:57 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I've heard from a couple people now that THE BIG SLEEP is a letdown after the first film. Hoping I'll enjoy it but properly forewarned!

Best wishes,

9:35 PM  

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