Romanticism in the Film Version of The Big Sleep
In Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep, he presents two sisters, Vivian and Carmen. These women become the central characters, aside from Philip Marlowe, and they control much of the action in the novel. The 1946 film version of The Big Sleep, however, manipulates Chandler's characters considerably. Aside from playing with the dialogue of the novel, the screen-writers change the very essences of Vivian and Carmen. Perhaps it is the casting of the film which forces changes from the novel, or perhaps the Production Code keeps the writers from developing the women in the way that Chandler does; either way, the film version of The Big Sleep makes the story romantic and often cliche.
Vivian and Carmen, sisters, are presented by Chandler as psychotic and dangerous women. Vivian, is described in detective Philip Marlowe's thoughts as "tall and rangy and strong-looking...Her hair was black and wiry and parted in the middle and she had the hot black eyes of the portrait in the hall"(Chandler 17). She is cool and manipulative, instantly suspicious of Marlowe's presence in her world, and she plays her suspicions off as insults. When she meets Marlowe, she says, "So you're a private detective,...I didn't know they really existed, except in books. Or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotels"(Chandler 18). Marlowe plays right back at her, countering every snide remark with one of his own. When Vivian tells Marlowe she doesn't like his manners, his response is,
I'm not crazy about yours...I didn't ask to see you. You sent for me. I don't mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a Scotch bottle...I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me. (Chandler 19)
In the novel, Marlowe doesn't care for Vivian anymore than she does for him. A fact that is hammered home throughout the novel in the dialogue between these two characters.
In the movie, however, there is a distinct attraction between the characters, purposely created to capitalize on the real-life affair between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Director Howard Hawks was charged with creating a movie vehicle for these stars as a result of their incredible chemistry from the earlier movie To Have and Have Not. Bogart and Bacall were phenomenally well-matched on-screen and off, and Hawks decided that The Big Sleep was the best film to display their chemistry. In order to do so, the script needed to be revised from the novel. The novel calls for Marlowe and Vivian to go their separate ways, with Marlowe discretely threatening to reveal Vivian's secrets and Vivian shattered and responsible for Carmen's deranged life. Hawks asked William Faulkner to create a screenplay that would maximize the drama while maintaining an air of...