The Big Sleep
I know I risk controversy by saying I think Humphrey Bogart was the second-best Philip Marlowe to appear on the silver screen. My personal favorite is Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely from 1975. It’s certainly open to debate, and if you prefer Bogey and Bacall I won’t argue with you. But to me, Bogart’s Marlowe never quite achieved the world-weariness to be found in the books. Mitchum nailed it. But this film is wonderful. I’ve probably seen it five times, and it was worth it on every viewing. A total classic.
The Hayes Office demanded that much of the book be toned down. One of the characters was selling pornography, which could not be mentioned. He was also homosexual, which was a no-no as well.
There’s not much point in going into the plot. Famously, no one really knows what was happening, the story was so complicated and obscure. Don’t believe me? Did you know that the people who adapted the book, William Faulkner (of all people!) and veteran screenwriters Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, asked Raymond Chandler for a point of clarification. They wanted to know who killed Owen Taylor, the chauffeur. Or did he kill himself? Chandler later admitted: “They sent me a wire … asking me, and dammit, I didn’t know either.” As an author myself, I sympathize. I mean, when I wrote something thirty years ago I knew all the ins and outs of the story. But ask me today …