Sunday, June 18, 2017


I know my readers are a sophisticated bunch, so you’ve probably seen the movie of The Lady in the Lake (1947) – based on Chandler’s novel - where Marlowe is played by Robert Montgomery and also played by the camera so that everybody talks directly into the lens, hands the camera a cigarette, takes a swing at the camera, and so on, and we only see the actor when he appears in a mirror, which he does surprisingly often.  It’s kind of clever but it also kind of doesn’t work.

Still, the movie is much enlivened by the presence of Audrey Totter, an actress with a 40 year career, starting as a compelling yet not quite A-list movie actress, and later appearing in all kinds of TV series from Alfred Hitchcock Presents via Dr Kildare and Wagon Train right through to Murder She Wrote, which was her last appearance in 1987.  Here she is in Life magazine, in character I assume, though I haven't worked out which one:

By noir standards there really isn’t a lot of boozing in the movie of The Lady in the Lake, but there’s one scene where the Audrey Totter character (Adrienne Fromsett) takes Marlowe back to her apartment for a drink she returns from the kitchen with a bucket of ice and two tall glasses of some clear liquid (alas you can only see one of them here): 

And my question is: what’s in that glass?  Raw vodka?  Raw gin?  We know that noir women are hard-drinkers but surely even they didn’t serve tumblers of raw alcohol to their gentleman callers.  White wine?  Well that’s probably the best guess, though even in 1940s Hollywood that would surely have seemed a bit gauche.  Or perhaps there are some mysteries that even Marlowe isn’t meant to solve.

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