Philip Marlowe (/ˈmɑːrl/) is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler. Marlowe first appeared under that name in The Big Sleep, published in 1939. Chandler's early short stories, published in pulp magazines like Black Mask and Dime Detective, featured similar characters with names like "Carmady" and "John Dalmas".

Philip Marlowe
Philip Marlowe character
Bogart and Bacall The Big Sleep.jpg
Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe, with Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge in The Big Sleep
First appearanceFinger Man (short story)
The Big Sleep (novel)
Last appearanceThe Pencil (short story)
Poodle Springs (unfinished novel, completed by Robert B. Parker
Created byRaymond Chandler
Portrayed byDick Powell (film, radio, TV)
Humphrey Bogart (film)
Van Heflin (radio)
Robert Montgomery (film, radio)
George Montgomery (film)
Gerald Mohr (radio)
Philip Carey (TV)
James Garner (film)
Elliott Gould (film)
Robert Mitchum (film)
Ed Bishop (BBC radio)
Powers Boothe (TV)
Danny Glover (TV)
James Caan (HBO film)
Jason O'Mara (TV pilot)
Toby Stephens (BBC radio)
OccupationPrivate detective

Some of those short stories were later combined and expanded into novels featuring Marlowe, a process Chandler called "cannibalizing" but is more commonly known in publishing as a fixup. When the non-cannibalized stories were republished years later in the short story collection The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler changed the names of the protagonists to Philip Marlowe. His first two stories, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot" and "Smart-Aleck Kill" (with a detective named Mallory), were never altered in print but did join the others as Marlowe cases for the television series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Marlowe's character is foremost within the genre of hardboiled crime fiction that originated in the 1920s, notably in Black Mask magazine, in which Dashiell Hammett's The Continental Op and Sam Spade first appeared.

Underneath the wisecracking, hard-drinking, tough private eye, Marlowe is quietly contemplative and philosophical and enjoys chess and poetry. While he is not afraid to risk physical harm, he does not dish out violence merely to settle scores. Morally upright, he is not fooled by the genre's usual femmes fatales, such as Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep.

Chandler's treatment of the detective novel exhibits an effort to develop the form. His first full-length book, The Big Sleep, was published when Chandler was 51; his last, Playback when he was 70. Seven novels were produced in the last two decades of his life. An eighth, Poodle Springs, was completed posthumously by Robert B. Parker and published years later.


Explaining the origin of Marlowe's character, Chandler commented that "Marlowe just grew out of the pulps. He was no one person."[1] When creating the character, Chandler had originally intended to call him Mallory; his stories for the Black Mask magazine featured characters that are considered precursors to Marlowe. The emergence of Marlowe coincided with Chandler's transition from writing short stories to novels.[2]

Chandler was said[3] to have taken the name Marlowe from Marlowe House, to which he belonged during his time at Dulwich College. Marlowe House was named for Christopher Marlowe, a hard-drinking Elizabethan writer who graduated in philosophy and worked secretly for the government.

Biographical notesEdit

Ed Bishop had the title role in BBC Radio's Philip Marlowe radio drama series.

Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler in a series of novels including The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Goodbye. Chandler is not consistent as to Marlowe's age. In The Big Sleep, set in 1936, Marlowe's age is given as 33, while in The Long Goodbye (set fourteen years later) Marlowe is 42. In a letter to D. J. Ibberson of April 19, 1951, Chandler noted among other things that Marlowe is 38 years old and was born in Santa Rosa, California. He had a couple of years at college and some experience as an investigator for an insurance company and the district attorney's office of Los Angeles County. He was fired from the D.A.'s office for insubordination (or as Marlowe put it, "talking back"). The D.A.'s chief investigator, Bernie Ohls, is a friend and former colleague and a source of information for Marlowe within law enforcement.

Marlowe is about seventy-three and a half inches (187 cm) tall and weighs about 190 pounds (86 kg). He wears colorful clothes, introducing himself to readers in The Big Sleep as wearing a powder blue suit with a dark blue shirt and patterned socks. He first lived at the Hobart Arms, on Franklin Avenue near North Kenmore Avenue (in The Big Sleep), but then moved to the Bristol Hotel, where he stayed for about ten years. By 1950 (in The Long Goodbye) he has rented a house on Yucca Avenue and continued at the same place in early 1952 in Playback, the last full-length Chandler Marlowe novel.

His office, originally on the seventh floor of an unnamed building in 1936, is at #615 on the sixth floor of the Cahuenga Building by March/April 1939 (the date of Farewell, My Lovely), which is on Hollywood Boulevard near Ivar. North Ivar Avenue is between North Cahuenga Boulevard to the west and Vine Street to the east. The office telephone number is Glenview 7537. Marlowe's office is modest and he doesn't have a secretary (unlike Sam Spade). He generally refuses to take divorce cases.

He smokes and prefers Camels. At home he sometimes smokes a pipe. A chess adept, he almost exclusively plays against himself, or plays games from books.

He drinks whiskey or brandy frequently and in relatively large quantities. For example, in The High Window, he gets out a bottle of Four Roses, and pours glasses for himself, for Det. Lt. Breeze and for Spangler. At other times he is drinking Old Forester, a Kentucky bourbon: "I hung up and fed myself a slug of Old Forester to brace my nerves for the interview. As I was inhaling it I heard her steps tripping along the corridor." (The Little Sister) However, in Playback he orders a double Gibson at a bar while tailing Betty Mayfield. Also, in The Long Goodbye, he and Terry Lennox drink Gimlets.

Marlowe is adept at using liquor to loosen peoples' tongues. An example is in The High Window, when Marlowe finally persuades the detective-lieutenant, whose "solid old face was lined and grey with fatigue", to take a drink and thereby loosen up and give out. "Breeze looked at me very steadily. Then he sighed. Then he picked the glass up and tasted it and sighed again and shook his head sideways with a half smile; the way a man does when you give him a drink and he needs it very badly and it is just right and the first swallow is like a peek into a cleaner, sunnier, brighter world."

He frequently drinks coffee. Eschewing the use of filters (see Farewell My Lovely), he uses a vacuum coffee maker (see The Long Goodbye, chapter 5). He takes his coffee with cream in the mornings but has it black at other times.

Typical of classic private eyes, Marlowe is the eternal bachelor in all of the novels. But in the opening paragraphs of Poodle Springs he has just married Linda Loring, the divorced daughter of the press tycoon Harlan Potter. He knows her from The Long Goodbye, where they spent one night together, and from Playback, where she, after one and a half years, surprisingly called him from Paris and proposed to him ("I'm asking you to marry me").

Influences and adaptationsEdit

Marlowe bibliographyEdit

Works by Raymond ChandlerEdit

  • "Finger Man" (1934), (short story): This story originally featured an unnamed narrator, identified as "Carmady" in subsequent stories, and later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • "Goldfish" (1936), (short story): This story originally featured Carmady, later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • "Red Wind" (1938), (short story): This story originally featured John Dalmas, later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • "Trouble Is My Business" (1939) (short story): This story originally featured John Dalmas, later renamed Marlowe for book publication.
  • The Big Sleep (1939)
  • Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
  • The High Window (1942)
  • The Lady in the Lake (1943)
  • The Little Sister (1949)
  • The Simple Art of Murder (1950) (short story collection)
  • The Long Goodbye (1953)
  • Playback (1958)
  • Poodle Springs (only the first four chapters were completed and then left unfinished at Chandler's death in 1959; completed by Robert B. Parker, 1989)
  • "The Pencil" (AKA "Marlowe Takes On the Syndicate", "Wrong Pigeon", and "Philip Marlowe's Last Case") (1959), (short story): Chandler's last completed work about Marlowe, his first Marlowe short story in more than twenty years, and the first short story originally written about Marlowe.

Authorized works by other writersEdit

Marlowe, as he appeared in volume 9 of Detective Conan
  • Ten Percent of Life (1987, ISBN 9-780671-634193), by Hiber Conteris. An unusually well-off Marlowe probes the 1956 "suicide" of a Hollywood literary agent, one of whose clients is Raymond Chandler.
  • Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration (1988, ISBN 1-59687-847-9). A collection of 24 short stories, edited by Byron Preiss. The second edition (1999, ISBN 0-671-03890-7) included two additional stories.
  • Poodle Springs (1989, ISBN 0-399-13482-4), by Robert B. Parker. An authorized completion of Chandler's unfinished last work.
  • Perchance to Dream (1991, ISBN 0-399-13580-4), by Robert B. Parker. An authorized sequel to Chandler's The Big Sleep.
  • The Black-Eyed Blonde (2014), by John Banville writing as "Benjamin Black,"[4] is an authorized sequel to The Long Goodbye. It has the same title as a Marlowe short story Benjamin M. Schutz contributed to the 1988 collection, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration.
  • Raymond Chandler Speaking (1971), by Dorothy Gardener and Katherine Sorley Walker. New York: Books for Library Press.
  • Only to Sleep (2018), by Lawrence Osborne, finds Marlowe in Mexico in 1988, investigating the “accidental” swimming death of a debt-ridden con man/developer.

Film adaptationsEdit

Trailer for Lady in the Lake (1947)

Radio and television adaptationsEdit

Video game adaptationsEdit

See alsoEdit


  • Lid, R. W. (1969), "Philip Marlowe Speaking", The Kenyon Review, Kenyon College, 31 (2): 153–178, JSTOR 4334891

External linksEdit