Quotation by Alistair Cooke

The field maneuvers may be different from those in Holmes's day, and the villain is more socially mobile, but since Sir Arthur we have not changed the three essential ingredients of the private eye. He must be a bachelor, with the bachelor's harum-scarum availability at all hours (William Powell's marriage to Myrna "Nora" Loy, a wistful concession to the family trade, fooled nobody). He must have an inconspicuous fund of curious knowledge, which in the end is always crucially relevant. He must pity the official guardians of the law. Of course, the twentieth century has grafted some interesting personality changes on the original. Holmes was an eccentric in the Victorian sense, a man with queer hobbies—cocaine was lamentable but pardonably melodramatic—whose social code was essentially that of the ruling classes. He was, in a way, the avenging squire of the underworld ready to administer a horsewhipping to the outcasts who were never privileged by birth to receive it from their fathers. Bogart is a displaced person whose present respectability is uncertain, a classless but well-contained vagabond who is not going to be questioned about where he came from or where he is going. ("I came to Casablanca for the waters." "But there are no waters in Casablanca." "I was misinformed.")
Alistair Cooke (b. 1908), British journalist, broadcaster. "Epitaph for a Tough Guy," Atlantic Monthly (May 1957).
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