Free «The Big Sleep Film Criticism» Essay Sample


The adaptation of books or rather novels and plays into films characterized the 20th century literature and screen play. Most books that had been written by famous authors in the 20th century were adapted into movies and films, with actors seeking to convert the mind boggling or in other words overwhelming written stories into motion pictures. However, it can be noted that the adaptation of these novels or plays into movies and films tended to loose the original these that the author had when writing these novels or stories in these books. In most cases, this is attributed to the fact that it is quite challenging to movie or film directors to compress a whole book into a two hour movie. Among the 20th century books that were converted into a film is ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler.

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Research findings and discussion

To begin with, the adaptation of the novel ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler in a movie by Howard Hawks missed the mark in terms of expressing certain themes and ideas as had been expressed by the author, Raymond Chandler. First, the director of this movie failed to emphasize certain scenes in the movies just as these had been emphasized in novel by Chandler. In this line of thought, the director of this movie, Howard Hawks emphasized on other scenes in the movie and gave them weight far much more than what had been given to them in the novel by the author. In this regard, there was an element of reversing the state of emphasis or points of concerns in the movie. As a result of this type of emphasis, the director of this film focused more of portraying some characters as sexy in the film yet these characters had been portrayed as cynical in the book by Raymond Chandler instead of sexy (Brewster 2005).

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Critical analysis of the movie also proves that the director of the film was biased in his representation of certain scenes in the movie whereas this should not have been the case. Throughout the movie, there is a greater focus on the man-woman relationship and ignorance of scenes that would have revealed the proceedings of the criminal case under the direction of the Los Angeles Attorney (Chandler 154). Whereas Raymond Chandler in his book ‘The Big Sleep’ devoted a good portion of the book to examine how the proceedings of the criminal case in question were carried out and thus play a critical part in providing the necessary evidence in regard to this case, Hawks as the director of the film version of ‘The Big Sleep’ downplayed this effort by Chandler and therefore failed to provide a backbone in his film in regard to presenting a scene to the audience that would have helped him to understand the case proceeding in question and how the decisions by the Los Angeles Attorney were arrived at. This therefore creates confusion in the film especially when the film was being watched by a person that had already read Chandler’s book.

In reference to Sultanik (1986), whereas the film ‘The Big Sleep’ by Hawks captured the events as they occurred in the criminal world, he failed to follow the prose that had been employed by Chandler in writing this book. According to 123 Help Me (2010) website, transforming words that have been constructed into a story and compiled into a book into a movie is one of the hardest tasks that one can undertake. In this regard, film directors have in the past found it challenging to pick scenes that are relevant from a book or rather a novel and turn it into motion pictures without compromising with the content and the theme of the book. Therefore, Hawks as a director of the film ‘The Big Sleep’ is not an exception. There were also sexual scenes in the novel ‘The Big Sleep’ that were not described in details in the film by Hawks (Chandler 92). Instead, it seems as if Hawks intentionally avoided including these scenes in his film.

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There have been different arguments in regard to failure by Hawks to adapt perfectly the novel ‘The Big Sleep’ into a film. Some of these arguments have centered on the fact that the novel version of this film is too complicated. in line with this, a specific argument that was used by Hawks to defend himself in his failure to portray the exact theme as was portrayed by the author of this novel is the fact that even the author himself was unable to tell who killed the Sternwoods' driver, one of the characters in this novel (Chandler 123). Similarly, Hawks admitted that he found the novel difficult to follow and the transition from one level to another challenged his understanding.

There are other issues that could have contributed to the failure by Hawks to adapt this novel perfectly into a movie. To begin with, it is important for one to understand that there were certain issues that were not appreciated in the society at this particular time or rather during the period in which the film was acted. One of these issues is pornography (Brewster 2005). The societal norms and regulations were still strong at during this period, i.e. in the 1940s and as a result, any film that portrayed any form of pornography was highly condemned. Therefore, whereas the literal description of sexual scenes was taken as part of the literature, showing these scenes in motion pictures was an abomination. In this regard, an inclusion of these scenes in the film would have resulted to an outright rejection of the film by the society, which would have resulted in a waste of resources by the producing company.

Another issue that may have caused such exclusion of details that were found in the novel by Hawks is government regulations. There were strict regulations during this period that dictated that pornography and homosexuality were abominable practices in the society and as a result, anybody who was found propagating these behaviors or in possession of any form of media materials with such contents was liable to prosecution. Therefore, no single film producer in his right minds could risk his career by including such content in his or her film.


The adaptation of the novel ‘The Big Sleep’ into a film failed in a way to capture the real events as had been portrayed in this novel and turn them into motion pictures. There are various events that were omitted either intentionally or unintentionally by the film director, Hawks.  There are various reasons that have been cited as the real cause of this. First, the flow of the novel and the articulation of various themes proved a challenge to the film director, Hawks, who argued that the book was difficult to follow. Similarly, the societal norms at that particular time did not allow the public depiction of certain scenes in the media, either on television or in the films that were acted at that time. This was further strengthened by the fact that the government had imposed strict measures on the media industry on the type of content they were supposed to show to the public. Therefore, it will remain as a subject of discussion on whether the failure of Hawks to capture the events in this novel and turn them into a film were as a result of acting incompetence or it was as a result of the restrictions that emanated from the society at that time.

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