Week 6, Feb 10th: The Classical Noir Directors 1) Howard Hawks. Screening : The Big Sleep Howard Hawks (1946) Readings : Walker, Michael, (1993) "The Big Sleep: Howard Hawks and Film Noir," 191-202 in Cameron, Ian, editor, The Book of Film Noir . pp191-201 . Howard Hawks (1896 – 1977).
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Week 6, Feb 10th: The Classical Noir Directors1) Howard Hawks
Screening: The Big Sleep Howard Hawks (1946)
Readings: Walker, Michael, (1993) "The Big Sleep: Howard Hawks and Film Noir," 191-202 in Cameron, Ian, editor, The Book of Film Noir. pp191-201.
American film director, producer and screenwriter popular for his films from a wide range of genres such as Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Sergeant York (1941), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) ; Rio Bravo (1959). Awarded the Academy Award (1975) “a master American filmmaker whose creative efforts hold a distinguished place in world cinema”, and in 1942 nominated for the Best Director Oscar for Sergeant York.
The Western (Red River , Rio Bravo , El Dorado ); the screwball comedy (Twentieth Century , Bringing Up Baby , His Girl Friday , Man’s Favorite Sport? ); Film Noir (The Big Sleep ); the historical epic (Land of the Pharaohs ); the musical comedy (A Songis Born , Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ); science fiction and horror (The Thing ); the combat film (Air Force , The Dawn Patrol ); the biopic (Sergeant York ); the adventure film (TheBig Sky , Hatari! ); the gangster film (Scarface ); the racing film (The Crowd Roars , Red Line 7000 ); the prison film (The Criminal Code ); the aviation film (Ceiling Zero , Only Angels Have Wings ).
“Hawks worked in virtually every conceivable genre but, more remarkably, he left his characteristic mark on so many of them.Far from being hemmed in by genre conventions, Hawks was able to impress upon these genre films his own personal worldview. It is essentially comic, rather than tragic, existential rather than religious, and irreverent rather than earnestly sentimental”
Belton, John, The Hollywood Professionals (Vol.3): Hawks, Borzage, Ulmer. New York: A. S. Barnes, 1974.
Bogdanovich, Peter, The Cinema of Howard Hawks. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1962.
McBride, Joseph, ed., Focus on Howard Hawks. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972.
McBride, Joseph, Hawks on Hawks. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
Thomson, David, The Big Sleep. London: BFI Publishing, 1997.
Wood, Robin, Howard Hawks. (rev ed.) London: BFI Publishing, 1983.
The Big Sleep (1946) Directed Howard Hawks
Produced by Howard Hawks
Written: Raymond Chandler
Screenplay: William Faulkner,Leigh Brackett &
Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe
Lauren Bacall as Vivian Sternwood Rutledge
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Sidney Hickox
Editing by Christian Nyby
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date August 23, 1946
One of Raymond Chandler's best hard-boiled detective mysteries transformed into a film noir, private detective film classic. This adaptation of Chandler's 1939 novel was from his first Philip Marlowe novel. Chandler took segments of two of his own, previously-published stories that appeared in Black Mask magazine: "Killer in the Rain," and "The Curtain." It was directed by Howard Hawks, scripted by Nobel laureate William Faulkner (with additional assistance from Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman), and scored by composer Max Steiner.
Very complex, confusing, logic-defying whodunit with a quintessential private detective (Marlowe), false leads, unforgettable dialogue and wisecracks, raw-edged characters, sexy women (including the two daughters of a dying millionaire, a bookseller, and others), tough action, gunplay, a series of electrifying scenes, and screen violence.
Although a classic film noir, it has no flashbacks, no voice-over narration, and little evidence of expressionistic images. The film was not recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in any of its award categories but is now considered a canonical noir film and one of Hawks’ best films.
The PC would not have condoned the exposition of explicit details of portions of the depraved plot anyway (the references to drug use, Carmen's nymphomania, the pornography racket, and the homosexual relationship between Lundgren and Geiger). Without a voice-over narrative, the audience is allowed to follow the point-of-view experiences of the detective and conclude what they want about his search for solutions to the confused puzzle.
The General compares the morality of his two daughters. The older daughter, Vivian, is feisty and strong. The spoiled, sexually-perverse, younger daughter is named Carmen:
“They're alike only in having the same corrupt blood. Vivian is spoilt, exacting, smart and ruthless. Carmen is still a little child who likes to pull the wings off flies. I assume they have all the usual vices, besides those they've invented for themselves. If I seem a bit sinister as a parent, Mr. Marlowe, it's because my hold on life is too slight to include any Victorian hypocrisy. I need hardly add that any man who has lived as I have and who indulges for the first time in parenthood at my age deserves all he gets.”
What is much more important than the basic blackmail-murder plot is the stylish method and process of the private detective’s quest, that the viewer identifies with and shares, as he makes his way through the murky world of nasty crime from one oppressive setting to the next, or from one wicked character, fallen woman, or femme fatale to another, until eventually discovering love with his female protagonist.
Although the film was released in mid-1946, it was actually filmed mostly in the fall of 1944 (about six months before Bacall and Bogart were married). Pictures of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on walls, in the Acme Book store, and in the detective's office hint that the film was shot mainly in late 1944, and finished in early 1945. By mid-1946 when the film was released, after awaiting the release of other war-themed films, FDR had been dead for a year.
The atmosphere of the film is dark and paranoiac - full of suspicion, existential dread, and intrigue. The film's title, The Big Sleep, refers to death. Blackmailers and murderers commit their ill deeds (gambling, pornography, vice, perversion) while the world continues on its course, almost asleep.
Marlowe's single-handed pursuit and investigation of pervasive corruption and treachery is met with deception, threats of extermination, and violence (although most of the killings are discreetly committed off-screen). Robert Mitchum reprised the role of Marlowe in the remade UK classic mystery The Big Sleep (1978), with the setting transferred from a 1940s Los Angeles to an updated 1970s London.
Carmen: You're not very tall, are you?Marlowe: Well, I, uh, I try to be. Carmen: Not bad looking. Oh you probably know it. (while twirling and biting a lock of her hair)Marlowe: Thank you.Carmen: What's your name?Marlowe: Reilly. Doghouse Reilly. Carmen: That's a funny kind of name. Marlowe: You think so.
Carmen: Uh, uh. What are you? A prizefighter?Marlowe: No, I'm a shamus.Carmen: What's a shamus?Marlowe: It's a private detective.Carmen: You're making fun of me.Marlowe: Uh, uh.Carmen (she leans back and falls into his arms, throwing herself at him): You're cute.
Sternwood: “How do you like your brandy, sir?”Marlowe: “In a glass.”Sternwood: “I used to like mine with champagne. Champagne cold as Valley Forge and with about three ponies of brandy under it...I like to see people drink...You may take off your coat, sir...Too hot in here for any man who has any blood in his veins. You may smoke, too. I can still enjoy the smell of it. Nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy.”
The visual exchange is masculine at every level, except that Vivian is a woman. Begley refers to Laura Mulvey’s famous description of spectatorship of a showgirl, in which the male sees the woman-as-object but the woman identifies with the male subject in her return of the desiring gaze.