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On the Set : On a Hot Chandler Night : SHOWTIME ADAPTS 'RED WIND' AS A 'FALLEN ANGELS' PROJECT

November 26, 1995|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raymond Chandler's famous shamus Philip Marlowe is back on the screen and up to his neck in murder, mystery, dames and blackmail.

An hourlong adaptation of the Chandler mystery "Red Wind," airing Sunday on Showtime, concludes the second season of the cable network's acclaimed film noir anthology series, "Fallen Angels."

Over the years such legendary actors as Humphrey Bogart, Robert Montgomery, Dick Powell, James Garner and Robert Mitchum have played the hard-boiled Los Angeles private eye. In "Red Wind," Danny Glover dons the gumshoe's well-worn fedora and becomes the first African American in Marlowe movie history to play Chandler's beloved creation.

Kelly Lynch ("Virtuosity") co-stars as Lola, the beautiful, mysterious damsel in distress. Polish director Agnieszka Holland ("Europa, Europa," "Total Eclipse") directed from Alan Trustman's adaptation of Chandler's short story.

The "Red Wind" of the title refers to the hot Santa Ana winds that blow from the high desert into the Los Angeles basin in late summer and early fall. But other things besides hot weather are giving Marlowe trouble in "Red Wind," set in 1948:

Marlowe is minding his own business in a local bar when someone is murdered right in front of him. Not long thereafter he finds himself helping the married Lola, who is desperately trying to locate a string of pearls given to her by her boyfriend just killed in a plane crash.

"I am the quintessential Raymond Chandler woman whom Marlowe falls in love with," says Lynch between breaks in the filming. On this late afternoon, "Red Wind" is shooting at a Spanish-style house in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Lola and Marlowe, she explains, are two ships that pass in the night. "We see all of this attraction, all of these sparks. But we know it's never going to be."

Lola's rich husband (Ron Rifkin) is also having an affair. "There's some blackmailing between my husband and myself," Lynch says. "We love each other, but we play this game. Marlowe basically gets us back together, which is lovely."

At the film's outset, Lynch says, Lola is desperately lonely. Marlowe enters the picture after she hires him "through a series of weird circumstances on this hot night of Santa Ana winds and murders and weirdness. I am incredibly lonely, incredibly freaked out and he is right there. He's such a gentleman and he's very kind and listens to me. I am full of all sorts of pains and problems. By the time their brief time is over, he has helped her not only get back together with her husband in a really strong way, but Lola is a much stronger person. She sort of grows up in a way."

Lynch is thrilled she's getting the opportunity to play a real woman in "Red Wind," especially since she believes most characters in movies today are "boys and girls. It's Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Movies are so incredibly light now. You want something dark in there and some sensuality in there. Just because they are the good guys, they can't have those things, a current running through them. It's really too bad."

The former model adores working with Glover. "I think Agnieszka has a brilliant idea and it was such a great way to play Marlowe, especially given the time and their forbidden love, their attraction. He is a black man and it's 1948 and he could get shot for just talking to me. The line to cross was something that was impossible to do. Danny's very, very sexy, very very quietly sensual. He's beautiful and tall and big and he can certainly be scary. He owns this macho thing that Marlowe has."

Lynch is interrupted to shoot a scene in which Lola and Marlowe say goodby just as her husband arrives. After a few takes, Glover sits down in an empty director's chair to discuss "Red Wind."

"I was excited having the opportunity to work with Agnieszka. What is so unique about Agnieszka is that she doesn't see color," Glover says. "If someone else had this material, they wouldn't have provided me the opportunity to do it. Agnieszka said, 'I want Danny.' "

Glover maintains people don't have to "see color" to make certain assumptions about race. "If you have a certain assumption of someone, a certain assumption of people, the idea of seeing color is irrelevant. The fact is, if you see them as inferior, you don't think about them doing [certain things]. It's like someone walking up to me in 1935. It would be impossible for them to believe I was a doctor or possibly that I had received a college education because they have a preconceived notion of who I am.

"So when you get into preconceived notions of who people are and the idea that they could 'possibly be equal to you,' that's when the issue of color comes home in a very refined way. Agnieszka doesn't see that. She says, 'I would like Danny for this role.' Can you imagine seeing a director in 1935 or 1940 saying, 'Oh, I would like Paul Robeson to be Marlowe?' "

"Red Wind" airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime .

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