Marlowe (Warner Archive)
James Garner is Philip Marlowe in the 1969 adaptation of “The Little Sister” (the least of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe novels, perhaps, but still a Marlowe novel), but it should come as no surprise that he more resembles a certain seventies TV private eye. When he quips, in perfect deadpan, “Does you mother know what you do for a living?” as a couple of thugs go to work on him, it sounds a lot more like the future Jim Rockford than the past Philip Marlowe.
Which actually makes Marlowe a lot of fun in its own right. Marlowe is the down-at-heels private detective in the modern L.A. of the late sixties, not quite old school and just a little bit of the urban tough guy in the swinging sixties, which looks more go-go than groovy baby in this incarnation. Hired to find a runaway brother by a young woman whose name—Orfamay (Sharon Farrell)—and drawl identify her as a rural hick in the big city, Marlowe gets tangles in a plot that encompasses gangsters, a movie star (Gayle Hunnicutt) and her protective stripper roommate (Rita Moreno), blackmail, murder by ice-pick, a doctor who laces the cigarettes he hands out to nosy PIs and Bruce Lee as a stylish thug who trashes Marlow’s office as a form of intimidation.