Dueling Marlowes

Last week, ABC announced they were "updating" Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe as the basis for a possible TV series set in present-day Los Angeles. Now Universal Pictures has announced  that they are developing a new Marlowe movie, a period-piece that will star Brit Clive Owen.

Strike has made a deal with Phil Clymer at U.K.-based Chorion to get
rights to a Chandler mystery series that includes "The Big Sleep" and
"Farewell My Lovely." Strike’s Marc Abraham and Eric Newman will
produce the film, with Owen exec producing. The project is in a nascent
stage — they are courting writers and filmmakers — and they haven’t
decided which title to adapt.

But they sparked to having Owen
narrate the dramas in Chandler’s testosterone-laced prose, something
Owen did well in "Sin City." The plan is to keep the noir spirit of the
Chandler books, and keep the mysteries set in the 1940s in Los Angeles,
with Marlowe continuing to be the hard-drinking, wisecracking gumshoe.

The irony is that the last Marlowe movie starred Robert Mitchum and was set in London. This is sort of the reverse of what Universal has in mind this time.  What I don’t understand is how it’s possible for these dueling projects to exist…has Marlowe slipped into the public domain? If not, there’s probably a very interesting (and very complicated) rights story behind this…

6 thoughts on “Dueling Marlowes”

  1. Marlowe is not public domain, Uni had to purchase the rights from Chorion Limited, they hold rights to many literary estates, including Chandler and Agatha Christie.
    My guess is that ABC purchased television rights a while back.
    I do agree that it would be very strange to see two different productions at the same time.

  2. A modern Marlowe? Say it ain’t so. I can just hear the dialogue now: “I’m like walking down this mean street just conversating with my homie, or whatever, you understand what I’m saying?” Brrrr!

  3. Say it isn’t so to both projects. The movies and television rarely get Marlowe right. Bogart was just about it. Maybe Dick Powell.
    The radio show sucked, too. You can still find copies of it and the guy sounds more like a gangster instead of a private investigator.
    I just don’t think Marlowe translates all that well.

  4. There was a television series in the early ’50s, produced by Goodson-Todman, and starring, I believe, Phil Carey. It was produced when Chandler was still alive. One of Chandler’s best letters contains his reaction to being asked by the producers to sign a loyalty oath.


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