Essay Sample on "The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler - The Novel and the Movie

Published: 2022-03-14
Essay Sample on "The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler - The Novel and the Movie
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Movie
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 999 words
9 min read

Background of the film

One of the most outstanding features of film noirs is their ability to create hard-boiled crime scenes using both visual and dialogue. It is a genre that shifts from the politically or socially correct scenes expected in the society by introducing the concept of a seductive, yet deadly femme fatale within its plot. The genre rose to prominence during the 1940's and 1950's. History is thus awash with many film noirs but none matches Howard Hawks' film noir "The Big Sleep" produced in 1946. It is a film adapted from Raymond Chandler's novel of the same title and co-written by William Faulkner, Jules Furthman and Leigh Bracket (Hawks et al. 1946). The film stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, playing as private detective Phillip and Vivian Rutledge respectively. By using sensory and visual appeal through witty dialogue and seductive scenes, a characteristic of film noirs, Hawks' film revolves around the criminal investigation process rather than the outcome. Despite its success at the box office, where it garnered over $3million, the film, according to critiques, was considered as confusing because of its devious plotting. And, this leaves viewers making shrewd inferences and deductions because of its complexity. Other reviewers such as one posted in the New York Times website describes the film as one that is different and affords viewers a fresh and interesting perspective on a murder mystery (T.M.P, 1947). It goes ahead to point that one gets the chance to become part of the story and see things from the perspective of the protagonist, Phillip albeit with the chance to suffer his bruises as it happens in the film and novel from which the film is adapted from.

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Background of the novel "The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler is known for his penchant towards cannibalizing some of his short stories into novels. "The Big Sleep" written published in 1939 is no different from his previous works. It takes on the hardboiled crime scenes, a common feature in Chandler's works. However, in this case, he deviates slightly by introducing a detective, Phillip Marlowe who pairs with a seductive yet deadly female, Vivian. In keeping up with the hardboiled scenes, Chandler's book is interwoven with complex twists and turns where characters double-cross one another. Secrets are exposed throughout the plot. In addition, the title is used euphemistically to refer to death. Its success reception among critics led into its adaptation into films twice, one in the 1946 and the other in 1978.

What are the elements of adaptations in "The Big Sleep" film?

According to Leitch, one of the greatest weaknesses that film directors and screenplay wrights face when adapting novels into books is having to overcome the burden of omissions and systematic elisions. In this case, it becomes difficult to compress the whole plot of the novel or book into a film length (Desmond and Hawkes, 2006). And, in this case, they have to circumvent some events and scenes in the book in the adaptation process. And, this contributes to missing out of some important aspects of the book in the subsequent film. In the case of the film "The Big Sleep," there are various elements of adaptation that makes the film slightly different from the novel which it is adapted from. For instance, the character of Vivian, Sternwood's elder daughter is altered in the film. She is made to appear more sympathetic, yet a crucial character in the film than in the novel. The changes are necessitated by the director's inclination towards depicting a sympathetic aspect of female characters than that depicted in the Raymond Chandler's novel. Besides, the contact between Marlowe and the police is slightly reduced in the film despite taking a larger share of the book. In addition to the strategy of film directors to overcome with the inadequacies of film adaptation through omissions, there is also the aspect of expansion as an element of adaptation in the film "The Big Sleep." This is evident in the manner in which the double-entendre dialogue between Bacall and Bogart about the horseracing is added in the film despite being non-existent in the book. Another instance of expansion is the climax of the film, the confrontation with Eddie.

How have the omissions and changes affected the thematic concern of the film "The Big Sleep?"

Desmond and Hawks (2006), point at the dire effects of adapting a novel or book into a film. They highlight the impact it has on the thematic concerns of the movie. Omitting and creating changes in the script to fit into the film may emphasize or overlook at some of the issues that were in the original novel or book. This is evident in the film "The Big Sleep," where the changes and omissions result in a less misogynistic and less despairing film compared to the novel. For instance, while the character Phillip Marlowe in Chandler's book gets disgusted over the female characters he encounters, the one in the film is elated and happy working in a town laden with independent women. Besides, the issue of corruption is widely emphasized in the book but not in the film. The whole aspect results in a change in the thematic concerns and the variation in prominence of such themes in the film as compared to the novel. And, all this alludes to Leitch's point that there is a big difference between adaptation and allusion of a novel into a film, and each has its effect on the themes presented in the work (Griffin, 2010).


Desmond, J. M., & Hawkes, P. J. (2006). Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.

Griffin, S. M. (2010). Thomas Leitch, Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of Christ.

Hawks, H., Chandler, R., Bogart, H., Bacall, L., & Malone, D. (1946). The big sleep. Warner Brothers.

T.M.P. (1947, January 24). Retrieved from

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