Guns at Cyranos (1986)

Series: Philip Marlowe, Private Eye
Country: United States
Director: Robert Iscove
Starring: Powers Boothe, Roxanne Hart, Cec Linder, Mark Humphrey, Ken pogue, John Ireland
Music: Samuel Matlovsky
Title Theme: Moe Koffman
Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler

Guns at Cyrano’s is a short story by Raymond Chandler, which originally appeared in Black Mask, in January 1936, and the detective in that story was called Ted Malvern. Malvern was later changed to Ted Carmady for the Simple Art of Murder anthology. For this 1986 episode of the series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, he evolves into Chandler’s most famous creation – as you would have guessed, Philip Marlowe.

The story starts in Benny Cyrano’s Gym with the arrival of Philip Marlowe (Powers Boothe). In voice-over, Marlowe describes the smell as having the power of a ‘Right Hook to the jaw’ (is Marlowe a Southpaw?) The gym is a hive of activity with many boxers slugging it out, and pounding the bags. The star attraction, Duke Targo (Mark Humphrey) is in the centre ring with a sparring partner. Watching him is his girl, Jean (Roxanne Hart), who is a nightclub performer. Marlowe introduces him self to her. She doesn’t seem too impressed.

Marlowe moves on through the gym, to the back, and to Benny Cyrano’s office. A gangster type, tries to stop him, but Marlowe slugs him in the gut and pushes him aside and enters the office. Marlowe is expected. Benny Cyrano (Cec Linder) wants to hire Marlowe to find out who has been sending threats to Targo. Targo’s record reads, twelve fights / twelve K.O.s – and his thirteenth fight is that evening. Cyrano is concerned that Targo may be forced to take a dive. Marlowe takes the case.

Marlowe doesn’t know where to start, so he begins with Targo’s girl Jean. He tracks her to her hotel room, but when he arrives, he finds her unconscious, laying in her doorway. Paging, Philip Marlowe – White Knight!

Meanwhile, the state has a new boxing commissioner, Senator Courtway (John Ireland), who vows to stamp out corruption in the fight game. Is he in anyway connected to the threats leveled at Targo? Is he responsible for the attack on Jean? Well, these are the questions that Marlowe must answer, as he tries to untangle the threads of this case.

Benny Cyrano also happens to run a nightclub called ‘Cyranos’, which is where Jean performs. The title, Guns at Cyranos refers to this nightclub, rather than the gym. And after the fight – well, I don’t really have to tell you, do I?

On a television show such as this, expecting a high level of fight choreography is probably a bit too much to ask. Most of the fight sequence is film in medium to long shot, and even then it is obvious that the punches are not landing. But ultimately this is a Philip Marlowe story – not a boxing story. It just happens to take place in the seedy world of boxing.

Guns at Cyranos is a tight little tale, with the usual Chandleresque bitter-sweet relationships, deceptions and twists. But they sit pretty well. It has been quite a few years since I have watched this Philip Marlowe series, from beginning to end, but I recall this being one of the better episodes, in a series that was generally of a high standard.

You can read the Carmady (Simple Art of Murder) version of the story by clicking here.

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney). Accordingly, in a month long celebration, Permission to Kill will be looking back and some of the highlights – and lowlights – of boxing in film and literature – and in music too.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

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