The Adventures of Philip Marlowe: The Feminine Touch, Part 1
Who is Philip Marlowe?
I really enjoy the Philip Marlowe character. Marlowe was created by Raymond Chandler, a hard-boiled detective story writer who followed in the footsteps of Dashiell Hammett. Hammett is the father of the hardboiled sub-genre of detective fiction. He’s the one who took the detective story from the streets of London to the dark mean streets of American cities. Raymond Chandler then perfected the hardboiled detective character. Like Dashiell Hammett’s “Sam Spade” character, Chandler’s “Philip Marlowe” is tough — he can use a gun and can take a beating, but he is also ethical and won’t take a job if it doesn’t meet his standards. He’s seen so much of the bad side of human nature that he is cynical — he doesn’t trust people to have pure motives. He sees people as being selfish and dishonest, motivated by self-interest. And yet, when he sees something genuine in someone, he responds to that. It fits with his values. Here is a client he wants to work for.
Chandler wrote six Philip Marlowe novels, and when his earlier short stories got republished, the original detectives were renamed ‘Philip Marlowe’. Marlowe made it to radio and TV, but new stories were needed. These new stories were written by other writers, not by Chandler. The CBS radio play scriptwriters (Gene Levitt, Robert Mitchell, Mel Dinelli, and Kathleen Hite) kept true to the spirit of Raymond Chandler’s character. Marlowe is still the cynical loner with a strong sense of justice who tells his stories with dry sarcasm — witty language that is clever and funny. He often takes two very different things and uses one to describe the other in a new and amusing way. His humor is often critical, but it shows that he is very perceptive — he can see what people are really like.
This play is called “The Feminine Touch” implying that a woman will do something that only a woman could do. ‘Feminine’ means showing qualities that are suited to women or girls. So, what are those qualities? Well, women are generally seen as gentle, kind, and nurturing, so a woman might add a feminine touch to her home by growing flowers. She might add a feminine touch in the colours she chooses to paint the walls — light pale colours instead of dark or bright colours. She will pay special attention to the look of the baby’s room because she is nurturing and motherly. Normally, these are the kinds of things that we think of when we talk about adding ‘a feminine touch’, but this story is a hardboiled detective story. We can expect a twist on the normal meaning.
In scene one, Marlowe meets with a new client and finds out what the job is. He sees a father who maybe wasn’t the best father, but who really cares about his daughter. He has genuine concern. Marlowe decides to take the job.
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Is Philip Marlowe right in seeing Baldwin Granville as a bad father? Is it really Mr. Granville’s fault that his daughter is in trouble? After all, she is 23 years old now. At age 23, shouldn’t she be held responsible for the decisions she makes in life? Please leave a comment below about parenting skills and if they still matter when your children are grown up.