Merchant of Menace; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), January 30, 2014 | Go to article overview

Merchant of Menace; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION

Did author Raymond Chandler and film star Humphrey Bogart ever meet?

CHANDLER and Bogart met many times around the time of the filming of Chandler's novel The Big Sleep, when the author was on set on several occasions.

For the 1946 film, Howard Hawks cast Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the lead roles: they were great actors and hot news as they had recently married.

They had met on the set of another of Hawks's films, 1944's To Have And Have Not, and were smitten with each other.

That was Miss Bacall's first film and she was possibly the first and only actress to share top billing in her first feature. In it, the pair have a very funny scene in which they wind up a policeman on the phone, which Chandler thought was a hoot.

Chandler was an interesting character. Born in 1888 in America, his parents brought him to London in 1900, where he studied at the public school, Dulwich College, whose alumni included writers P. G. Wodehouse and C. S. Forester.

Returning to the U.S., he eked out a living writing pulp fiction before The Big Sleep was published in 1939. The film was Bogie's second outing as a gumshoe detective, having played Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon in 1941.

Chandler met Bogart at weekends during casting, ostensibly for social drinking and general carousing -- which Bogie excelled at -- but he also wanted to check him out to see if he had the makings of a good Philip Marlowe.

Chandler saw something unique in Bogie that he knew fitted Marlowe's persona. He also liked the name the studio publicity department coined for Bogie, 'The Merchant of Menace', which he thought was a good character trait for Marlowe.

Chandler famously remarked: 'No other actor looks as convincing on screen with a gun as Bogart.' In a letter to his British publisher, Hamish Hamilton, he wrote: 'When you see The Big Sleep, you will see what can be done with this kind of story by a director with the gift of atmosphere and the requisite touch of hidden sadism.' During shooting, Chandler told Hawks he was impressed. Another glowing testimonial he gave him was: 'Bogart can be tough without a gun, also he has a sense of humour that contains that grating undertone of contempt.

'Alan Ladd is hard, bitter and occasionally charming, but he is, after all, a small boy's idea of a tough guy. Bogart is the genuine article.' Danny D'Arcy, Reading, Berks.

QUESTION

ITV Mystery Dramas are sponsored by Viking River Cruises. In one of their adverts, a boat passes a magnificent castle perched on a hill. Where is it?

THE Viking team has confirmed that the castle is Stahleck Castle on the Rhine in Germany. It can be seen on the Viking Rhine Discovery itinerary, an eight-day cruise from Amsterdam to Basel.

Leah Pummell, Edelman, London SW1. TWELFTH century Stahleck Castle (Burg Stahleck) stands on a crag above the town of Bacharach in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, 30 miles south of Koblenz.

Its name means 'impregnable castle on a crag', from the Middle High German words Stahel (steel) and Ecke (crag).

The castle is variously said to have been built in 1135 by wealthy knight Goswin von Stahleck or somewhat earlier by the Archbishops of Cologne, then handed over to Konrad of Hohenstaufen (1135-1195) by his brother Frederick I Barbarossa (1123-90), who made him first Count Palantine.

Konrad's daughter Agnes (1176-1204) inherited the castle. She is remembered in Britain for her marriage to Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1173-1227). He was the son of Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria (1126-95) and Matilda, the daughter of Henry II of England (1156-89). …

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