THE BRASHER DOUBLOON is a 1947 film based on the Philip Marlowe novel THE HIGH WINDOW. According to Wikipedia, it was technically a remake of the 1942 TIME TO KILL, an adaptation of the novel as a Mike Shayne film that starred Lloyd Nolan as Shayne. This one starred George Montgomery as Marlowe(though Fred MacMurray, Victor Mature, and Dana Andrews were all attached to the role at some point during pre-production) and Nancy Guild as Merle Davis, the timid, possibly mentally challenged secretary.
The plot follows the novel pretty closely with the exception of doing away with the counterfeit Doubloon subplot. It’s all about the blackmail over the death of Mrs. Murdock’s husband, in this case Murdock instead of her first husband in the novel. The role of Mrs. Elizabeth Murdock is played by Florence Bates. Her son, Leslie, is a very young Conrad Janis(all of nineteen at the film’s release).
Not a bad film, a tight little mystery, it only suffers when compared to other Marlowe films, notably Bogart’s turn in THE BIG SLEEP. I’ve watched most versions now, with the exception, I believe, of Nolan’s Mike Shayne turn, and I would rank it as a decent effort.
Other roles slightly different from the novel were Vince Blair, hood/night club owner played by Marvin Miller, more known for the fifties TV series THE MILLIONAIRE, Eddie Prue, Blair’s hood/flunky with one bad eye done to a turn by Alfred Linder, the blackmailing cameraman Rudolph Vannier(Fritz Kortner), the murdered numismatist, Elisha Morningstar(Housely Stevenson), and the cop investigating the various dead bodies Marlowe keeps turning up, Lt. Breeze(Roy Roberts).
I finally broke down and bought one of those pirated editions of the film, getting eight Marlowe films in one set. I have no idea why THE BRASHER DOUBLOON hasn’t been released in a nice DVD package. I think us Marlowe fans would appreciate such.
A word on the coin of the title that plays an integral part in both the novel and the film. A rare coin mentioned in the film as being worth ten thousand dollars, it weighs 26.6 grams of .917(22-caret) gold. One of the surviving coins sold for $625,000 in 1981. In 2005, Heritage Gallery Auctions put the three variations up and received $2,415,000 for the New York Style EB Punch, $2,990,000 for the unique New York Style EB Punch on Breast, and $690,000 for the rare but less iconic Lima Style Doubloon. Finally, in 2011, an undisclosed buyer payed $7,400,000 for one, the most ever paid for a rare coin.
Besides Chandler’s THE HIGH WINDOW, the coins is mentioned in THE BURGLAR WHO STUDIED SPINOZA by Lawrence Block and THE MANSION IN THE MIST by John Bellairs.
The film is also available on Youtube, broke down into six parts.
For more overlooked movies, as always, drop in on Tuesdays at Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.