Filmsite Movie Review
Murder, My Sweet (1944)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Marlowe and Ann, now on the trail and working together, proceeded over to the Grayle mansion, where amusingly, Marlowe struck his match on the back-end of a marble Cupid statue. They found Mr. Grayle alone in a room on the upper-floor of his workshop, where to their surprise, they saw him clumsily loading a gun after a visit by the police. Upset and frightened, he divulged that the authorities had asked him about the Grayle beach house, and he had just learned that Marriott had been the tenant. Mr. Grayle appeared jealously enraged and suspected Helen's infidelity: ("It must stop...The whole thing's gone too far"). Even Marlowe hypothesized: "I don't say you killed Marriott, but you could've for a good old-fashioned motive."

Mr. Grayle confessed his two sole interests in life - his jade and his "young desirable" trophy wife Helen - and of course, his daughter. He was cognizant of the fact that Helen was a gold-digger who had married him for his wealth, and feared that he was losing her to younger men. He called his romantic rival for Helen's love, Marriott, "a paltry, foppish man of no consequence who's better dead" - mostly due to the necklace. He gave Marlowe an ultimatum - to close the case:

It must stop, Mr. Marlowe. It must stop!...You must go no further. The matter must be closed. I'll pay you well.

Although he had been called off the case, Marlowe felt compelled to continue his quest: "A cancer doesn't stop growing just because you ask it to." He reasoned that he must still clear his own name: "A guy who hired me got killed." - (Marlowe reminded Ann that Marriott had been amateurishly bludgeoned 20 times before dying).

He and Ann drove by car to the cliff-side Grayle beach house in Malibu. After entering the dark structure with Ann's key, Marlowe sensed an expensive perfume smell (Marlowe's olfactory senses were keen throughout the entire film), and his flashlight focused on a painted self-portrait of Marriott sitting on an art easel. The detective guessed that Randall and the police had already ransacked the place searching for clues and possible answers to Marriott's murder. The torn note with Marlowe's name and phone number matched the notepad next to Marriott's telephone - and the PI hypothesized that earlier, someone (probably Mrs. Florian or maybe Helen) had called Marriott there to recommend Marlowe as a detective and set up his services.

As he smelled a burnt-out cigarette (noting to himself that its owner Helen was possibly there), the detective again mentioned that Ann had still not told him anything yet, other than that she was at the canyon to prevent her father from committing murder (offing Marriott, or any other suitor interested in Helen), but had found Marlowe knocked to the ground instead of her jealous father.

He spoke about her cute crooked nose (due to a 7th grade baseball accident) before they kissed. But then while she was in his arms, he suggested that she had been only manipulatively nice to him. She had earlier tried to buy him off at the Cocoanut Beach Club to prevent him from becoming another Marriott-like suitor for Helen. After her offer didn't work, he recalled that her father had also just tried to buy him off. Ann verbally countered his false accusations, and condemned all duplicitous men (young and old), referring to Marriott and Marlowe - two males who were both interested in Helen:

Sometimes, I hate men, all men, old men, young men. Beautiful young men who use rose water, and almost-heels who are private detectives.

They were shocked to hear laughter from Helen, who walked into the room (wearing a PI's trenchcoat to identify herself with Marlowe), interrupted their argument and agreed that Marlowe had played "a dirty trick" on Ann: "It's not that she doesn't like you. She hates men."

Ann wasn't finished with her denouncements. She used the second half of her speech to also hatefully condemn cold-hearted, gold-digging women who brutally used men (she was referring to Helen, who had originally been a red-head, but was now a bleach-blonde!):

I hate their women too, especially the big-league blondes, beautiful expensive babes who know what they've got. All bubble bath and dewy morning and moonlight. And inside, blue-steel cold! Cold like that, only not that clean.

Helen briefly retorted - maternally: "Your slip shows, dear."

After losing the catfight, Ann rushed from the house to return to her worried father, while Marlowe was left alone with Ann's step-mother. She admitted that she had avoided the cops' visit to the Grayle mansion by hiding out in the beach house for the last few days. He accused her of being completely uncooperative during his search for her stolen jade necklace - she had stood him up at the Cocoanut Beach Club, and then dispatched Amthor (through Moose) to bring him to the penthouse to "shake the necklace" out of him. He was assured that the unfaithful, deceitful and adulterous Mrs. Grayle had been carrying on affairs for quite awhile - she confessed to the fact ("I've gone out with other men. I find men very attractive"), as she changed into a more seductive dressing gown.

She prepared drinks for the two of them, and then tried to gain Marlowe's sympathy by confiding that she was actually being blackmailed by Amthor, after he had learned of her promiscuity and infidelities with Marriott. Amthor was Helen's doctor when she was his patient - to treat her "centers of speech." She added: "I have a psychological impediment...His system's partly mumbo-jumbo and partly the real thing. He flatters you. He, uh, gets into your past." After hours of talking about all of her problems and her past history during therapy, Amthor had uncovered "a basis for blackmail." He had demanded the valuable jade necklace, and without any other choice - to quiet him and keep his silence about all of her inner secrets ("he threatened to go to my husband") - she had promised to give Amthor the necklace as 'hush money.' She feared that the revelation of her cheating ways to her older husband "would kill him." However, before she was able to turn over the necklace as payment to Amthor, she said it had been stolen. She suspected that Amthor had killed his own double-crossing partner Marriott for plotting to steal the necklace (and for possibly hiring Marlowe as a bodyguard for protection):

I'm sure Amthor decided to kill him out there. He may even have known about you and counted on you taking the blame.

Marlowe played along with her assumptions and summarized:

  • Amthor was planning to blackmail Helen for her infidelities and her past history, by threatening to inform her husband
  • Helen agreed to "fork over the jade" to keep Amthor quiet
  • The jade necklace was stolen, in the meantime - "with Marriott's help"
  • Amthor suspected that his compatriot Marriott was double-crossing him and planning to steal the necklace
  • Amthor killed Marriott

[Note: In fact, by this time, Helen had romanced five men throughout the film: her husband, Marriott, Amthor, Marlowe, and Moose - all of the major male players.]

The deceitful, rotten-to-the-core Helen went one more murderous step further - she begged for Marlowe's assistance in eliminating and killing the insidious Amthor so that she could finally rest and find peace:

I want you to help me kill Amthor. (Marlowe spilled his drink) Don't you see. It's the only way I'll ever have peace. Once these things get started, they go on and on. He'll never be satisfied, even if he does get the jade...Please, I need you so. I'm lost. I haven't been good, not halfway good. I haven't even been very smart, but I need help, and peace. I need you.

She threw herself at Marlowe - who cradled her in his arms. She offered herself for a kiss, and he succumbed. They talked further about the difficulty of locating Amthor, who may have skipped town after Marlowe directed the cops toward Amthor's assistant, Dr. Sonderborg. She suggested a strategy - Marlowe might lure Amthor to the beach house the following evening with the promise of relinquishing the necklace: "Tell him you're ready to sell and that you've got the jade," and then she could confront (and kill) him ("That's my part"). To sweeten the deal and tempt Marlowe further, she sexually and monetarily volunteered herself to him: "How would you like not having to earn a living?" Although they kissed, he declined anything further for the time being, claiming that he had work to do and needed to go into hiding until the planned rendezvous the following night.

After leaving, Marlowe entered Amthor's ransacked penthouse where there was evidence of a struggle. Next to Amthor's signature white carnation, he found a murdered corpse on the floor - with a snapped neck! ("He wasn't hurt much. He was just snapped, the way a pretty girl would snap a stalk of celery. Only for this job, you'd have to be a big man with a big pair of hands"). Without providing a name, Marlowe suspected that the hulking Moose Malloy was the killer. [Note: In code-talk, "Moose" was the "pretty girl," while Amthor was the "celery."]

Upon his return to his dingy office, Marlowe took another look at Velma Valento's signed glamour photograph. As the camera slowly pulled back, Moose Malloy had materialized behind him. Marlowe presumed that Moose had grabbed Amthor so viciously during his impatient search that he accidentally broke his neck ("I know you didn't mean to kill him...You don't know your own strength"). When Moose looked at the Velma Valento picture, he did not recognize the female in the photo. It was obviously a "phony" photograph, given to him by Mrs. Florian to mislead. Moose was still looking for Velma and feared "the johns" might have gotten her or had been tipped off about her whereabouts. Marlowe promised that Moose could be reunited and speak with the missing Velma (aka Helen Grayle) the next day. They planned to meet at his office the next night after dark. At last, both of Marlowe's case-investigations (Malloy's and the Grayle's) had now come full circle.

The final showdown and confrontation at the Grayle beach house commenced. Marlowe would signal Moose, waiting outside, to enter the home after he opened the curtains - he sternly warned him to not "jump the gun." From inside the beach house, the camera followed Marlowe as he walked around the front window. In a marvelous composition, a telltale whiff of exhaled cigarette smoke arose from the darkness of the sofa to catch the light - showing Helen's prone location. She answered Marlowe's knock on the door and allowed him entry. He was immediately entranced by Helen wearing a sequined black dress - they fell into each other's arms. He deceptively told her that Amthor had gone "undercover" and would arrive later at around midnight. He closed the curtains and began to turn on the lights - a metaphoric gesture implying that he was finally uncovering dark truths.

She handed him a cardboard box containing the jade necklace (to be given to Amthor), and then happily and coyly admitted that she had faked and fabricated the whole story about the stick-up. Marlowe was shocked by the naughty admission:

It was never stolen? There wasn't any holdup? You faked the whole thing.

She wanted to continue the deception with Amthor - not realizing that he was already dead - and relished the thought of enticing him: "I'm not going to let him get it now. We'll just let him look at it." After everything was resolved, she said she would give the jade necklace to Marlowe! And then she started to smooze with Marlowe: "You're much too nice to be a grubby detective all your life." She continued to blame Amthor for Marriott's death at the canyon, but Marlowe didn't buy her explanation. He suggested that she may have gotten rid of Marriott herself as a murderous femme fatale:

I think the picture was a little different. I think Marriott was scared because he'd agreed to help you kill a nosey detective, yeah, the one Mrs. Florian phoned him about. He had to help you to protect his interest. You knew that. You belonged to him, and to Amthor, and to Mrs. Florian, in her modest way.

Marlowe suggested that she had become beholden to three individuals:

  • Marriott
  • Amthor
  • Mrs. Florian

The trio were all blackmailing her for lots of money (Marlowe: "You supported them") in exchange for agreeing to keep quiet about her infidelities, her murder of Marriott, and her criminal past involving Moose. In addition, Marlowe's entry into the situation - to help released ex-con Moose search for her - was a looming threat: "You wouldn't be worth blackmailing if I'd found you for Moose. He might even have hurt you. And Marriott, if he hadn't been scared silly, he might have realized you were pushing us both in the corner. That was nifty thinking, darling."

Marlowe conjectured that her first dastardly plan was to get rid of both Marriott and himself at the canyon, although her perfect plan was foiled after Marriott's murder when Ann (who was there thinking she had to protect her father) arrived at an inopportune moment. Helen had just bludgeoned Marriott to death in the car multiple times with a sap, and had also struck Marlowe - her second victim. He explained how spider-woman Helen had planned to kill both of them:

One of us would get out of the car. Didn't matter which. Either way, you had us separated. And then you'd tag us one at a time - and get Amthor later. Might have worked, too, if it hadn't been for Ann. Of course, my head's pretty hard, and killing a man with a sap's quiet, but it's no work for a lady.

Helen confessed to the truth of Marlowe's allegations ("It's all true!"), and admitted that she felt "trapped" by everyone closing in on her, exacerbated by the return of Moose from prison, and Marlowe's interjection into the case. She pleaded temporary insanity: "I didn't know where to strike. I didn't know what I was doing."

Marlowe was angry with her: "I almost ended up as dead as Marriott." She urged them to commit only one more murder, Amthor's (although he was already dead), in order to bring her peace: "I can't go back now. I'm so close to peace, so close. Just Amthor. But I can't face it alone. Don't desert me now." He refused to allow her convincing charms to affect him twice. He hypothesized that eight years earlier in her sordid past, Helen had charmed lover "Moose" into committing a homicidal crime that had sent him to prison (while she went undetected), and now she panicked that if her complicity was revealed, she would lose her high standard of living and find herself imprisoned in the clink (Marlowe asked: "I don't know what you talked him into. Was it murder or something serious?").

Realizing that she had been found out, Helen pulled a gun on Marlowe, and expressed regret about shooting a person that she actually liked ("I could like you. I could like you alot"). Suddenly, Ann and Mr. Grayle burst into the house to witness Helen about to kill Marlowe. Helen's husband deceptively encouraged her to swiftly eliminate Marlowe before Amthor arrived ("You'd better do it quickly") and helped to disarm Marlowe. Marlowe suggested that he could still be on her side and help eliminate Moose for her, because her former obsessed lover was now a murderer - he had "broke(n) Amthor's neck yesterday" in his quest to find her. Mr. Grayle was listening intently - his jealousy was again aroused when he heard how another male's infatuation with Helen had led to death. When Helen claimed to Marlowe: "You know too much. It's gone too far," Mr. Grayle suddenly shot her in the stomach with Marlowe's gun. He was punishing her for again being unfaithful to him.

Ann raced over to Marlowe to prevent him from calling the police. To protect her father - she proclaimed:

Don't you realize he saved your life? Why must he suffer for that? Why must he suffer more?...She's dead. Isn't that enough? She was evil, all evil. What difference can it possibly make who killed her?

Drawn inside by the gunshot, Moose entered and found Helen (his missing Velma) dead on the sofa - still entranced by her and oogling at her: "She ain't hardly changed. Just like always, only more fancy. Cute as lace pants - always." Mr. Grayle confessed to murdering her to console Moose, rationalizing that he had no other choice or option but to shoot her rather than lose her ("It was the only thing I could do. You must try and understand. I couldn't let her go. I loved her too much"). Moose was enraged and approached to attack Grayle after pushing Marlowe aside. Mr. Grayle fired again at Moose in self-defense - as Marlowe was lunging between them. Caught in the crossfire, his eyes were scorched and temporarily blinded by the muzzle flash of gunshot powder that went off in front of his face. Blinded and falling to the floor, Marlowe heard two more shots and a scream during a violent shoot-out, but was unable to see what had occurred. Both Moose and Mr. Grayle ended up dead after the lethal blasts.

[Note: Ultimately, there were three beach-house murders (Mrs. Grayle by her husband, and "Moose" and Mr. Grayle who mutually shot each other); there was also an earlier fourth murder of Marriott (by Mrs. Grayle) in the canyon, and a fifth murder of Amthor (by "Moose") in his penthouse.]

The scene dissolved, as black gooey ink again oozed across the frame (the third instance in the film), with Marlowe's familiar voice-over:

(voice-over) That old black pit opened up again right on schedule. It was blacker than the others, and deeper. I didn't expect to hit bottom. I thought I was full of lead.


The scene shifted back to the police interrogation room from the film's opening, where Marlowe was still sitting with bandages across his blinded eyes. He revealed his continued blindness and ignorance:

That's all I know.

He claimed that he had heard a total of three shots in the beach house, and still wondered who had been hit. Randall explained that Malloy was dead and so was Mr. Grayle (with "the third slug") after they struggled together for the weapon. Marlowe was exonerated, released by Randall and freed to leave, after Ann - who had witnessed all the killings, corroborated his story and cleared him of all charges. He was given back some of his possessions, including the box holding the jade necklace (Randall: "That's yours. She gave it to you, didn't she?"). Not knowing what to do with it, Marlowe refused it and handed it back.

Then, he was guided from the room and out of the police station by Detective Nulty, with Ann in a mink coat silently following behind. Unaware that she was present and listening (although he probably guessed her presence), Marlowe asked: "What do you know about that redhead, pitching for me? How'd she take it about the old man?" He also affectionately praised Ann's looks to Nulty as they boarded an elevator and exited the police station:

Cute figure, huh?...She had more than a figure too...Not a beautiful face, but a good face. She had a face like a Sunday School picnic...It's too bad I had to push her around. I wonder how she figured me, anyway. Not much probably. I guess she thought I liked that blonde chewing on my face. Probably thought there was more.

After Marlowe climbed into the back seat of an awaiting taxi-cab around the corner, she quietly took Nulty's place and accompanied him without his knowledge. When she brushed against him as the taxi lurched, he sniffed the air and detected her perfume. Realizing that it wasn't Nulty who had entered the cab with him, with a bland voice, Marlowe asked a blatantly homosexual come-on question:

Nulty, I haven't kissed anybody in a long time. Would it be all right if I kissed you, Nulty?

Grinning, Ann eagerly kissed him without saying a word as the film faded to black -- but not before Marlowe prudently and thoughtfully removed his gun from his holster in his top pocket to prevent bruising.

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