Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep was my first Raymond Chandler book and it’s a pretty amazing one at that. Chandler has a voice that captivates you and I can understand why his first novel was made into a film with none other than the enigmatic Humphrey Bogart playing Marlowe.

While I knew The Big Sleep was going to be a difficult adaptation because of the time in which it was made, I do have to say that the film was slightly dampened for me because I felt like I could see the censorship board all over it. Bogart was great as Marlowe, and Bacall was ravishing as his clients daughter, but there was too much changed from the book and the bite was taken out. An audience in 1946 may not have known the difference as very few hard hitting films were around in that day, but I can tell you that I’ve seen enough hard edged noirs in my time that I wanted the edge there.

One of the biggest changes script to screen was in Bacall’s character, Vivian Rutledge. In the book Vivian flirts with Marlowe, but is a scandalous spoiled woman, several times divorced and married to the man Marlowe is helping to hunt down. In the film Vivian is single and shares much screen time with Marlowe – not that I could blame the studio for making Bogey and Bacall an onscreen pair, the duo had so much onscreen chemistry a blind man could see it.

All in all, The Big Sleep is an enjoyable noir, but very ripe for a faithful-to-the-book remake.

Director: Howard Hawks

Vivian: You go too far, Marlowe.
Marlowe: Those are harsh words to throw at a man, especially when he's walking out of your bedroom.

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