Biography of Private Investigator Philip Marlowe Part 2

About the famous private investigator Philip Marlowe, history and biography of the Raymond Chandler character.



In 1939 Marlowe did not reveal his knowledge of a murderer's identity because she was insane and subject to epileptic seizures, and her discovery would have profited no one. Despite the fact that she had also tried to shoot him for refusing to sleep with her, Marlowe gave her sister a three-day grace period to get the girl to a hospital where she would be kept under constant observation, and where she might be cured. In 1944, pursuing a lead in a complicated set of murders arranged to look like a series of unrelated suicides, he was viciously beaten by corrupt policemen and sent to jail. When the police captain found out that his officers had punched and kicked Marlowe, had hit him with a blackjack, and had made him drink whiskey so they could arrest him for drunken driving, he asked if Marlowe wanted to file charges against them. Marlowe replied, "Life's too short for me to be filing charges of assault against police officers." Later, Marlowe discovered that the murderer he was looking for was Al Degarmo, the most corrupt of all the dirty cops. He told Degarmo shortly before the pinch, "I'm all done with hating you. It's all washed out of me. I hate people hard, but I don't hate them very long." In 1949 he was arrested twice and slapped around by the police in the process of shielding a movie star who was prepared to confess to a murder she hadn't committed. In 1953, protecting the memory of a friend he thought died, Marlowe was again beaten by the police, sent to jail, and later set up as bait to trap a big-time racketeer who wanted Marlowe dead. In that same year, he received $5,000 from a would-be client, but refused to spend it because "there was something wrong with the way I got it."

Marlowe was threatened with jail, bodily harm, loss of his detective's license, and/or death in every major case he undertook. Yet, whether confronting crooked cops, petty thieves, junkies, syndicate hit-men, or clients who refused to save themselves, Marlowe endured, fending off guns and knives with sarcastic witticisms, keeping his head clear enough to have no illusions about himself or the people he dealt with, bearing no grudges, and demonstrating, when the occasion demanded, that he was a dead shot and a tough fighter.

Marlowe was more than simply a detective. He discussed T.S. Eliot with a mistress's chauffeur, cited Flaubert's work habits to a popular hack writer, and quoted Browning to another mistress. When a woman with whom he had spent the night asked him, "How can such a hard man be so gentle?" he replied, "If I wasn't hard, I wouldn't be alive. If I wasn't gentle, I wouldn't deserve to be alive.'

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