The Brasher Doubloon (1947) John Brahm
By the time George Montgomery (above right) took the role in 1947’s The Brasher Doubloon, Raymond Chandler’s private detective Philip Marlowe had been portrayed by Lloyd Nolan (whose actual character name is Michael Shayne) in Time to Kill (1942), George Sanders (as “The Falcon”) in The Falcon Takes Over (1942), Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (1944), Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946), and Robert Montgomery in Lady in the Lake (1947). George Montgomery (no relation to Robert Montgomery, as far as I can tell) is undoubtedly the least known and The Brasher Doubloon possibly the weakest of the Marlowe films to this point (I can’t say for certain, since I haven’t seen those first two). Yet I’d watch it again in a minute.
Marlowe is called to the home of a wealthy widow named Elizabeth Murdock (Florence Bates, above left) to find a rare coin known as the Brasher Doubloon that was stolen from her, a coin worth $10,000. Mrs. Murdock is a pushy old bag and her son Leslie (Conrad Janis) a spoiled punk, but Mrs. Murdock’s secretary Merle (Nancy Guild) is easy on the eyes and Marlowe decides to take the case and find the coin.
Although the story contains several neat twists and and satisfies as an average noir thriller, Montgomery is a mixed bag. His Marlowe certainly tries for more of a humorous tone than most other Marlowe actors, which could be a good thing, but his delivery is often rushed and off the mark, sometimes touting lines so clichéd, Chandler no doubt roared with indignation (if he even saw the film). Nancy Guild as Merle – a girl with a secret – is a stunning beauty, but her performance is all over the place, but then again, so is her character.
Based on Chandler’s novel The High Window, The Brasher Doubloon also owes much to The Maltese Falcon. In fact, you might say The Brasher Doubloon is a poor man’s Maltese Falcon in that Brahm lifts so many of that film’s devices and scenes, albeit to much lesser effect. The cinematography generally looks good (even in the awful YouTube video I watched) and the reveal at the end of the film is – while untenable – very effective.
For reasons I can’t explain, I like The Brasher Doubloon more than I probably should. It contains a certain unmistakable charm, some good moments, and some nasty supporting characters. A great noir? No, but I’d certainly watch it again.