"Ill blows the wind that profits nobody" Adventures Of Philip Marlowe - Red Wind September 26, 1948
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
So opens the story Red Wind by Raymond Chandler. Unfortunately, Marlowe is only part-way through his glass of beer when it's interrupted by murder. It may be random, or it may have been a set-up, but any murder comes with a handful of loose ends, and they soon begin to stack up at Marlowe's door. First it's a beautiful woman in a bolero jacket and a blue silk dress, then it's a sadistic killer who's a pip with a .22 target pistol. Soon the web expands to include blackmail, a philandering husband, a police lieutenant named Ybarra, five hundred dollars in twenties, and a string of forty-one pearls with a diamond propeller clasp.
This was the premiere episode of the Gerald Mohr CBS series, airing September 26, 1948. The script for this episode is almost an exact duplicate of the one used for the first episode of Van Heflin's Philip Marlowe series a year earlier, and credit must be given to Milton Geiger, the writer on that 1947 series. Listening to this episode, you will hear several nice touches that were not in the original Chandler story, but which appear in both radio versions, including:
The "Fill it up again, Mr. Marlin?" faux pas by the bartender.
The renaming of Lola Barsaly's ex-paramour to 'Johnny Dalmas'. When Red Wind first appeared in the January 1938 issue of Dime Detective (seen below), the detective was named John Dalmas, while Lola's dead lover was Stan Phillips. In subsequent publications and, of course, on The Adventures Of Philip Marlowe, the detective's name was changed from John Dalmas to Philip Marlowe. In Geiger's radio script, Stan Phillips is renamed Johnny Dalmas, a tribute to the original detective.
The expanded closing, in particular the evocative "Phony pearls; they'd fooled Waldo, and Lola Barsaly, but they couldn't fool a seagull".
This script set the tone for the closing monologues that would become the hallmark of Adventures Of Philip Marlowe, in both the Van Heflin and the Gerald Mohr versions. With visualization of the characters being a necessity of any radio drama, these introspective epilogues help us to both know and envision Philip Marlowe. For comparison, here is the more abrupt, but arguably just as effective, ending of Chandler's original story, Red Wind:
I went out of the bar without looking back at her, got into my car and drove west on Sunset and down all the way to the Coast Highway. Everywhere along the way gardens were full of withered and blackened leaves and flowers which the hot wind had burned.
But the ocean looked cool and languid and just the same as ever. I drove on almost to Malibu and then parked and went and sat on a big rock that was inside somebody's wire fence. It was about half-tide and coming in. The air smelled of kelp. I watched the water for a while and then I pulled a string of Bohemian glass imitation pearls out of my pocket and cut the knot at one end and slipped the pearls off one by one.
When I had them all loose in my left hand I held them like that for a while and thought. There wasn't really anything to think about. I was sure.
"To the memory of Mr. Stan Phillips," I said aloud. "Just another four-flusher."
I flipped her pearls out into the water one by one at the floating seagulls. They made little splashes and the seagulls rose off the water and swooped at the splashes.
'Red Wind' is available in the compendiums 'Trouble Is My Business' and 'The Black Lizard Big Book Of Pulps', both published by Black Lizard / Vintage Books, and in the out-of-print 'The Midnight Raymond Chandler'. In Canada, Red Wind is in the public domain.
* Note: There is a slightly muffled line around the 2:40 mark, as the belligerent drunk exits. A check of the written story confirms that it is "Poor Waldo. I bet I made his nose bleed."
The Extra File:
Included for comparison is the June 17, 1947 Red Wind episode from the earlier NBC series, starring Van Heflin. While this episode might feel a bit flat, more like a read-through than a full dramatization, it may be unfair to put all the blame on the talented Mr. Heflin. While most Marlowe fans say that the 'Heflin series' was not as good as the Gerald Mohr run, we must remember that it was also a different director, on a different network.
An interesting point about the Heflin series is that besides Red Wind, NBC also adapted two other Raymond Chandler stories: The King In Yellow (with guest star Gerald Mohr) and Trouble Is My Business. Both of these episodes are available on the OTRR Philip Marlowe page linked below. In the CBS series, Red Wind was the only one of Chandler's stories to be adapted.
To visit the OTRR's Adventures Of Philip Marlowe page, with over one hundred episodes available for download, click here.
To visit Introduction To Old Time Radio's Adventures Of Philip Marlowe page, click here.