The Big Sleep

Netflix is much better for me now that they’ve got a Lansing MI location.(Must be great for you Lackey!) Anyway, I got The Big Sleep. Just finished the book, thought I’d try the movie. I know there are a couple Bogart/Chandler fans here so I thought it might be interesting to discuss it.

Lots of changes… from the pointless flirtation in the book store opposite where Agnes works to Carmine not being naked when drugged and photographed. I know this last one is a concern for the era but it really takes the pornography angle out of the story and confused the hell out of my wife. She actually asked me what was so bad about pictures of a clothed Carmine and why she’d try to kill to get them back.

The ending. Much different than the book. Better I think, if that’s not sacrilige. I love the book’s finale with the blanks and the swamp, but the movie couldn’t have pulled that off. Too complex. Having Bacall at Canino and Mars’ wife’s hideout was a surprisingly good choice too. Made the the “Regan” conspiracy more plain… but why didn’t they keep her as Mrs. Regan? Was divorce and infidelity that much of a stigma in that period? That choice muddled things more than necessary.

Good movie though, I especially liked the actor they chose for “the little guy”. In the book his reaction to Marlowe’s short joke is classic. Marlowe feels abashed because he sees actual dignity in the man’s eyes. Bogart and that actor actually conveyed this exchange with their posture.

Heh, book by Raymond Chandler with a screenplay by William Faulkner. What pedigree!

Well, Andrew, being a Chandler fan you knew I’d jump in here (BTW - I didn’t know Netflix now has a Lansing MI location - no wonder my movies are getting to me in a couple of days.)

Did the DVD you watched have the original version or the restored/recut version? The original has so many gaps that it has a reputation for being impossible to understand the plot. The recut has scenes added back in, but you’re correct in that it is fundamentally a different experience than the book.

I’ve read Chandler so much that none of the movie versions ring true to me; they just don’t seem to have the bittersweet edge that Marlowe conveys in the books.

I’m not sure which version I saw. The disc says “Standard version” on one side and… “Standard version” on the other. Helpful. I read the book, so I was following it just fine, my wife got lost but that was more due to her falling asleep. What scenes were put back in? Can you name one?

I need to read more Chandler, I have that Early Writings book and have only read “The Big Sleep” so far. Oh, I also read the first short story in that one. “Sleep” is his first novel, I’m guessing, because despite the brilliance of language it reads like one. Disjointed in places and very muddled. I assume he gets tighter as you go along?

I’d have to go back and look to see what scenes were put back in - you can probably find out faster by looking on IMDB.

My recommendation for people reading Chandler is to start with Murder is My Business, which is a collection of short stories written for the pulps and precede his novels. Read that superb essay in the beginning of the book on the “art” of the mystery novel, and then read the stories. You can see him honing his craft in these stories. Then the novels, starting with The Big Sleep and in order (since he’ll refer back to instances in previous novels.)

Actually, I wouldn’t recommend his short stories so much. I like them, but I think Chandler works much better when he has a full novel to work out his characters and plot twists in. I find that his short stories tidy up their unruly knots too quickly.

But I do recommend that essay on mysteries. And High Window is one of my favorite of his novels, along with The Long Goodbye.