Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Quote of the Day (Ross Macdonald, on the Physical and Moral Environment of Southern California)

“There was nothing wrong with Southern California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure.” ― American mystery novelist Ross Macdonald (1915-1983), The Drowning Pool (1950)

I can think of at least two American detective movies of the 1970s whose producers made a fatal mistake: taking their protagonist out of the setting that, in their original source, functioned almost as a character in its own right. One of these films was the 1978 remake of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, which transplanted hero Philip Marlowe from the “mean streets” of Los Angeles and Hollywood all the way to London.

Something not quite as dramatic, but ultimately just as fatal, occurred with The Drowning Pool, when Hollywood made a second film featuring Ross Macdonald’s answer to Chandler’s hard-boiled but decent private eye, Lew Archer (renamed for the big screen Lew Harper). Paul Newman (pictured) played the character again, as he had done in Harper in 1965.

But, for some reason I don’t know and can’t imagine, the film’s creative team decided to set the movie in Louisiana rather than in Southern California, where Archer/Harper functioned as a probing conscience. It was a terrible choice. This film was nowhere near as good as its predecessor, and—perhaps thankfully—Newman never played the role again.

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