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Five ‘Private Eye’ Classic Movies · TMP

Last week’s Thursday Movie Picks was all about private investigators and though I missed it, I still wanted to share with you five private eye classic movies that I’ve seen and – mostly – loved. So here go!

Thursday Movie Picks is a feature hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Let’s start with the one I’m not a super fan of. Murder, My Sweet (1944) follows the classic formula of a private investigator working a seemingly simple tracking case (a crook’s ex-girlfriend), only to find himself in a deep and dangerous web of lies.

Like others in this list, Edward Dmytryk’s movie falls under the Film Noir genre, and these are really hit or miss for me. Surprisingly (given the actor’s notoriety…) what didn’t click with me here was Dick Powell. I found him rather bland and so the whole film paled for me. Still, Murder My Sweet (1944) is beloved by many and remember when I thought Bogart was boring?? Yeah.

Out of The Past (1947)

If Murder, My Sweet was a Film Noir “miss”, Out of The Past (1947) is a smashing hit one, directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring a power trio of Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. Jeff (Mitchum) recalls an episode from his past as a private eye, when Whit (Douglas) hired him to find Kathie (Greer), whom he claimed had shot him and escaped with $40,000. Now, Whit hires him again, and all the intrigue resurfaces.

Its beautifully shot by Nicholas Musuraca and with flawless performances from everyone involved, particularly Mitchum and Greer whose onscreen chemistry was off the charts!

The Thin Man (1934)

Let’s take a break from the bleakness of noir films and dive into a 1930s comedy starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, where a couple investigate a murder case, just for fun. Powell plays Nick Charles, a former detective, and Loy plays his wife Nora, in one of those empowering female roles Old Hollywood pulled off every now and then.

It’s witty and a blast to watch – I can’t recommend it enough. The formula was clearly magic as five more Thin Man movies were produced after!

The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep stars one of Hollywood’s most famous pairings of all time, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, in another prime example of Film Noir. Bogie plays Philip Marlowe, a private detective hired by a wealthy man to protect his youngest daughter.

The case turn out to be far more complex than he first predicted (so complex that to this day I’m not 100% sure what happens in this film), but with the help of the eldest daughter, Vivian (played by Bacall), things get sorted out.

See Also

Vertigo (1958)

Finally, I couldn’t make a private eye movie without Hitchcock’s masterpiece on obsession, Vertigo. In this 1950s mystery, James Stewart is Scottie, a retired detective asked by a friend to keep an eye on his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak).

Scottie falls in love with her, but she ends up dying tragically. In the present day, he meets Judy – a woman who looks exactly like Madeleine, and with whom he becomes obsessed.

As with most of Hithcock’s movies, you could analyse the meanings behind every scene for days. It’s also one of the director’s most gorgeous movies, and ends with one of the best plot twists ever!

What ‘private eye’ classic films would you recommend?

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View Comments (4)
  • Ooh! I’ve been trying to make an effort to delve into Hitchcock’s work recently and I LOVE a good plot twist, so I’m 100% going to have to see Vertigo soon!

  • So glad you decided to include The Thin Man in this round-up. Without a doubt, that’s one of my very favourite films of all time. I could watch it over and over again – and I have! – and never ever tire of it. The Big Sleep is another one of my faves, and yes, it’s super confusing. You know what eventually helped me understand the plot? Reading the book. Things become a lot clearer when you read the book first and then watch the film right after.

  • Nice picks! The Thin Man has been on my to-watch list forever. Vertigo isn’t my favorite Hitchcock movie, but it’s definitely one of the best private eye movies. lol

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