Sunday, November 02, 2014

Questions Surround the “Answer Man”

For those many of us interested in Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and their respective gumshoe protagonists, this story in the Los Angeles Times offers ample grist for speculation. Daniel Miller, who covers the film business for the Times, says he “spent more than a year researching Samuel Benjamin Marlowe, the man who may have been Los Angeles’ first licensed black private detective.
Family members and a dogged screenwriter believe he also knew noir writers Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and corresponded with them regularly. If Marlowe’s connection to the authors could be verified, he’d belong in history books. But like so many characters out of L.A. noir, he remains cloaked in mystery, his exploits partly unverifiable.”
Miller writes that Sam Marlowe--who was born in Jamaica in 1890 and died in L.A. in 1991 (“he’d seen Los Angeles [transform] from nothing to everything”)--may have worked for Howard Hughes and Charlie Chaplin, “keep[ing] tabs on women they were seeing,” and was employed in 1936 by Paramount Pictures “ to investigate an attempt to blackmail actress Marlene Dietrich.” He may also have done “a little work for Chandler” and guided him “on research expeditions to the ‘tough parts of town.’”

It all makes for a great story, one still chockablock with unanswered--maybe unanswerable--questions. Read Miller’s main piece here and then sit back to watch a video of him interviewing screenwriter Louise Ransil, who originally brought the case of Sam Marlowe to his attention.

READ MORE:Shadowing Marlowe: Another Good Story Ruined,” by Larry Harnisch (The Daily Mirror).

1 comment:

david hartzog said...

Check out's Larry Harnisch's interesting take on this.