Cast & Crew
Private detective Philip Marlowe is summoned to the Pasadena mansion of wealthy widow Elizabeth Murdock and there meets Mrs. Murdock's lovely, neurotic secretary, Merle Davis. Although Marlowe is interested in Merle, he is irritated by Mrs. Murdock's spoiled son Leslie. He then meets Mrs. Murdock, who asks him to find her missing Brasher Doubloon, a rare and valuable coin from her late husband's collection. Mrs. Murdock intimates that she knows who the thief is, but refuses to tell Marlowe, who then informs Merle that he is declining the case because Mrs. Murdock is not being completely honest with him. Merle's pleas change Marlowe's mind, however, and when he returns to his office, he is confronted by Eddie Prue, a hood working for nightclub owner and gambler Vince Blair. Prue tries to intimidate Marlowe into dropping the Murdock case, but Marlowe outmaneuvers him and tosses him out of his office. Marlowe then visits Elisha Morningstar, a coin dealer who had recently called Mrs. Murdock about her Brasher Doubloon, and he confirms that someone tried to sell him the coin. Morningstar states that the offer was a ploy to get him to authenticate the coin, but he refuses to tell Marlowe the name of the seller. After he overhears Morningstar call a private detective named George Anson, Marlowe goes to Anson's apartment and discovers that Anson has just been murdered. Marlowe finds a small revolver next to Anson's body, and recognizing that it belongs to Merle, asks her about her involvement with Anson, the coin and the Murdocks. Crying, Merle tells him that Mrs. Murdock has found the coin, which Leslie had "borrowed" to pay a gambling debt. Merle also reveals that Mr. Murdock used to harass her when she was his secretary, and that she has since had a fear of being touched. Merle is afraid that she killed Mr. Murdock, who fell to his death from a high window while watching the Tournament of Roses Parade five years earlier. Marlowe then questions Mrs. Murdock and reveals that he has the real coin, and she is therefore lying about having recovered it. After Marlowe leaves when Mrs. Murdock again refuses to tell him the whole truth, Mrs. Murdock orders Merle to get the coin from him any way she can. Marlowe returns to his apartment and there is confronted by Rudolph Vannier, a former newsreel cameraman who claims that the doubloon has been promised to him. Marlowe deduces that Vannier is blackmailing someone connected with the coin but cannot obtain any details from him. That evening, Merle goes to Marlowe's apartment and nervously attempts to seduce him. Although Marlowe is interested in the young secretary, he does not give her the coin. After Merle reveals that Mrs. Murdock has been paying Vannier $500 a month since her husband's death, Marlowe promises to help her and allows her to stay at his apartment while he goes to sleep at his office. On his way, however, Marlowe is slugged and taken by Blair's henchmen to his nightclub. Blair demands the coin, but Marlowe escapes after distracting the hoods by stating that Leslie, who is there, double-crossed them and returned the coin to his mother. Back at his office, Marlowe is awakened by a call from Merle, who tells him to come to Vannier's home. There, Marlowe finds Vannier's corpse and a distraught Merle, who claims that she came to demand Vannier's blackmail film. When Leslie enters, Marlowe realizes that he is involved, grabs him and the film, then turns Leslie over to the police. At the office of homicide detective Lt. Breeze, Marlowe reveals that Leslie intended to give the coin to Prue and Blair, who would turn it over to Vannier in exchange for the film, with which they would then blackmail Mrs. Murdock. Leslie killed Anson and Morningstar when they threatened to upset his plans, and Mrs. Murdock killed Vannier when she learned of Leslie's plans to continue the blackmail. Marlowe then shows Vannier's newsreel footage, which reveals that Mrs. Murdock, not Merle, killed Mr. Murdock. Mrs. Murdock confirms her guilt, but states that she has taken her revenge for Mr. Murdock's infatuation with Merle by aggravating Merle's neurosis and making her terrified of men. After the Murdocks are taken away, Marlowe comforts Merle, who states her intention to stay with him until her fear of being touched is erased.
Frank E. Hughes
R. A. Klune
Ring Lardner Jr.
Harry M. Leonard
Maurice De Packh
The working title of this film was The High Window. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio was given permission by the Treasury Deparment to reproduce a Brasher Doubloon for the film on the condition that it and the mold used to produce it were destroyed after the picture was completed. The original doubloon was minted in 1787 by Ephraim Brasher for the state of New York. Although the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at UCLA, indicates that Richard Macaulay and Jerome Cady worked on the film's screenplay, the extent of their contribution to the released picture has not been determined. According to a May 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item, Fred MacMurray was originally scheduled to play "Philip Marlowe." Late 1945 Hollywood Reporter news items announced John Payne, Ida Lupino and Victor Mature as the film's stars. The legal file discloses that Dan Seymour was originally scheduled to play "Vince Blair." Reed Hadley, who listed by the CBCS in the role of "Dr. Moss," does not appear in the completed picture. John Ireland, who is listed on Hollywood Reporter production charts with Hadley, is also not in the finished film.
According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, several early drafts of the film's screenplay were rejected by the PCA due to the original ending, in which "Mrs. Murdock" commits suicide to escape going to jail. The PCA also objected to the sexual suggestiveness, frequent drinking and brutality depicted, as well as scenes in which fingerprints were obliterated. The script was approved in May 1946. Twentieth Century-Fox first filmed Raymond Chandler's novel in 1943 as Time to Kill. In the earlier production, "Michael Shayne," played by Lloyd Nolan, is the hero instead of "Philip Marlowe." Time to Kill was directed by Herbert I. Leeds and co-starred Heather Angel and Doris Merrick (see below).