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Hardboiled Hollywood
Hardboiled Hollywood
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Hardboiled Hollywood
Hardboiled Hollywood

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Inhaltsangabe:Abstract:I have chosen the two films that will be subjected to examination in this work because they have a lot in common at first glance. Their scripts are based on crime novels of the so called ¿hardboiled school,¿ a stream in American popular literature that developed after the First World War. They were both filmed in the 1940s and produced by the Warner Brothers studio. No scholarly or critical discussion of the Hollywood genre of film noir is complete without them, and they…

Hardboiled Hollywood - 20070411

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Inhaltsangabe:Abstract:
I have chosen the two films that will be subjected to examination in this work because they have a lot in common at first glance. Their scripts are based on crime novels of the so called ¿hardboiled school,¿ a stream in American popular literature that developed after the First World War. They were both filmed in the 1940s and produced by the Warner Brothers studio. No scholarly or critical discussion of the Hollywood genre of film noir is complete without them, and they both feature Humphrey Bogart as the main actor in the role of the private eye.
What I hope to show this thesis is not only that these films, despite the similarities outlined above, are far from being basically the same movies, but additionally to give convincing reasons why this is the case. One of these reasons will be the evaluation of the fact that the literary private eyes that the heroes of John Huston¿s The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Howard Hawks¿ The Big Sleep (1946) are based on already differ in their character concept, and that these differences correspondingly found their way to the screen in the adaptations.
A further decisive point for measuring the differences between the films is that I will assume that these movies were financial successes because they reflected the times that they were made in and thus gave movie audiences what they wanted to see. That movies are products of their time is a fact as blatant as it is true, yet one that has repeatedly been called into question in the past. The Hollywood genre system, the directors, the financial interests of the movie-making industry have all been pointed out as shaping a movie and its content rather than some mysterious connection between a film and the popular mind, the convictions, dreams and anxieties of the masses commonly referred to as a people¿s culture.
But although I do not doubt the significance of the factors mentioned above, I agree with Albert Quart and Leonard Auster who pointed out that filmmakers are human beings and parts of their societies, and that, consequently, they ¿are touched by the same tensions and fantasies and their profits are usually dependent on their ability to guess popular feelings¿. Will Wright similarly argued that the popular success of a movie can be considered as evidence that it struck a nerve with contemporary audiences, as stars and promotion campaigns promising action-filled escapist fantasies alone have frequently turned out to be insufficient to ensure financial gain.
Using this as my basic assumption, I hope to illustrate that the two pictures of detectives differ from each other not only because they are based on novels by different authors, but also more decisively because they were filmed against different cultural backgrounds, at times when history had changed audience expectations concerning heroes. The historical ¿milestone¿ lying between The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep is World War II. The former was filmed in 1941, the latter in 1944 and released in 1946. Thus, what separates the screen incarnations of Sam Spade in Huston¿s film and Philip Marlowe in Hawks¿ film is the historical experience of ten years of economic depression that unmistakably revealed the flaws of capitalism on the one hand and the economic recovery and relative optimism of the war years on the other.
It will be argued that, while both of these heroes maintained certain traditional American virtues, primarily the myths of rugged individualism and tough masculinity as manifested in American frontier-mythology, they simultaneously modified these traditional convictions according to the contemporary cultural surroundings. To accomplish this the methodology outlined below will be applied.
I will commence by explaining the assumed connotation of terms repeatedly used throughout my work. The difference between ¿movie¿ and ¿film,¿ often regarded as the difference between the movie as entertainment/product manufactured in Hollywood and the art/avant-garde cinema of Europe will be ignored in this work. It is a difference that is of no importance for this discussion. Consequently, movie and film will be used interchangeably.
Culture then, as has already been indicated, is taken to be a people¿s convictions and a society¿s assumptions about life, which are, as Will Wright saw it, communicated to a civilization through its myths. The carriers of myths again are the stories told among the members of a society and as altogether are a people¿s or a nation¿s mythology.
As I am dealing with filmic manifestations of an American mythological hero of a particular era, namely the hardboiled detective, my first chapter will give a broad overview of other, earlier heroes that Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe were derived from. Through this, I can evaluate the continuities woven between them and the frontier heroes, the hunters, the cowboys and the gunslingers.
As historical events might bring cultural change that is reflected in the movies to be discussed, a historical and a cultural background of the United States from the 1920s to the end of World War II will be provided, as these are the decades to which our heroes were born, first on the written page and then on the screen. The hardboiled school as a literary stream and genuinely American form of popular fiction will be discussed as the scripts of the films to be analyzed are based on two outputs of this school. Emphasis in this chapter will be put on the authors responsible for the source texts of ¿our¿ movies, i.e. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
Studying American movies would be incomplete without a discussion of Hollywood, a term that for many has become synonymous with American film. To be discussed in my chapter on Hollywood are the dream factory¿s significance as an American ¿mythmaker,¿ as James Spatz called it, the genre system, studio practices, and the consequences of the Production Code for the The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Additionally, in this chapter the reason will be examined why Hollywood films, not in spite of but precisely because they are commercial products aimed at mass audiences, are worthy to be examined by scholars.
Strictly speaking, this is not a work on film theory. Lighting, cutting and scene composition will be taken into consideration, as images and sound are the factors that distinguish the way in which a film tells a story different from how literary fiction works. It would be awkward to choose film as the matter of research and then ignore what makes it a distinct medium. But for my purposes, it would not lead us too far if I restricted my work to the technical aspects of film and the mechanical conventions of the ¿Imaginary Signifier¿ as Christian Metz proposed. In Metz¿ words, my work will not be ¿basically cinematic,¿ as I will concentrate my analysis not so much on the ¿cinema but rather a story that happens to have been told by it¿.
Nevertheless, film noir as a cinematic style and a genre that goes against Hollywood conventions and Americanisms like happy endings, optimism and the conservative belief in a world divided into good and evil will be discussed in chapter five. Both films to be examined are commonly held to be archetypal films noirs, but we are about to see that one of them portrays a much bleaker, more faithless vision of America and masculine heroism ¿ due to the different historical and cultural contexts of the movies, as I am going to argue.
The patterns of analysis will be the same for both films. They will begin with a discussion of the changes that Hollywood imposed on the novels. This measure will, especially in the case of The Big Sleep, demonstrate how the Production Code among other factors supported the modification to more Hollywoodesque and consequently ¿more American,¿ positive and further from reality versions of the rather pessimistic source texts. This assessment will be followed by a discussion of the movies as films noirs, a relatively subversive genre that in the case of the Chandler-adaptation lost a lot of its rebellious potential and exchanged the crisis-ridden masculinity of the novel¿s Marlowe for a more traditional, everything-under-control kind of hero.
The third step in our analysis will examine traces of traditional concepts of American heroism already evident in both detective heroes in the novels. These are traits that mainly originate from ideas connected with the frontier-mythology and align both Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, regardless of some of their rather anti-heroic qualities, with Leatherstocking and similar characters of American fiction. Concluding the discussions will be a reading of the films as reflectors of contemporary anxieties and hopes in American society, that in both cases we will mainly find in the heroes¿ motivation to go against the ¿bad guys¿ and the heroes¿ relation to the opposite gender.


Table of Contents:
Introduction1
Methodology2
1.American Mythology4
1.1The Frontier and the Individualist Ethic4
1.2The Heroes of American Mythology8
2.Historical Context ¿ The United States from 1900 to World War II12
2.1Unrestricted Capitalism and the Progressive Movement12
2.2World War I14
2.3The Enhancement of Women¿s Situation in American Society15
2.4The Economic Boom of the 1920s15
2.5The Great Depression and the New Deal16
2.6World War II18
3.The Hardboiled School20
3.1Pulp Fiction: Gunslingers and Pis20
3.2Literary Traditions and the Hardboiled Genre22
3.3The Hardboilers in their Historical and Cultural Context24
3.4The Authors25
4.Hollywood30
4.1The Myth Factory as Societal Mirror30
4.2Hollywood Genre Cinema and Hollywood Authorship34
4.3The Hollywood Industry36
4.4Taming Hollywood ¿ Cause and Effect of the Production Code38
5.Film Noir41
5.1Origins41
5.2Style44
5.3Film Noir ¿ An un-American Genre?46
6.Film-Analysis The Maltese Falcon49
6.1Synopsis49
6.2Adaptation Changes51
6.3The Maltese Falcon as Film Noir57
6.4Sam Spade as a Frontier Hero60
6.5Bogart¿s Spade as a Hero of his Times61
7.Film Analysis The Big Sleep65
7.1Synopsis65
7.2Adaptation Changes67
7.3The Big Sleep as Film Noir76
7.4Philip Marlowe as a Frontier Hero77
7.5Bogart¿s Marlowe as a Hero of his Times80
Conclusion81
Works Cited84 Inhaltsverzeichnis:Table of Contents:
Introduction1
Methodology2
1.American Mythology4
1.1The Frontier and the Individualist Ethic4
1.2The Heroes of American Mythology8
2.Historical Context ¿ The United States from 1900 to World War II12
2.1Unrestricted Capitalism and the Progressive Movement12
2.2World War I14
2.3The Enhancement of Women¿s Situation in American Society15
2.4The Economic Boom of the 1920s15
2.5The Great Depression and the New Deal16
2.6World War II18
3.The Hardboiled School20
3.1Pulp Fiction: Gunslingers and Pis20
3.2Literary Traditions and the Hardboiled Genre22
3.3The Hardboilers in their Historical and Cultural Context24
3.4The Authors25
4.Hollywood30
4.1The Myth Factory as Societal Mirror30
4.2Hollywood Genre Cinema and Hollywood Authorship34
4.3The Hollywood Industry36
4.4Taming Hollywood ¿ Cause and Effect of the Production Code38
5.Film Noir41
5.1Origins41
5.2Style44
5.3Film Noir ¿ An un-American Genre?46
6.Film-Analysis The Maltese Falcon49
6.1Synopsis49
6.2Adaptation Changes51
6.3The Maltese Falcon as Film Noir57
6.4Sam Spade as a Frontier Hero60
6.5Bogart¿s Spade as a Hero of his Times61
7.Film Analysis The Big Sleep65
7.1Synopsis65
7.2Adaptation Changes67
7.3The Big Sleep as Film Noir76
7.4Philip Marlowe as a Frontier Hero77
7.5Bogart¿s Marlowe as a Hero of his Times80
Conclusion81
Works Cited84 Textprobe:Text Sample:
Chapter 6.5, Bogart¿s Spade as a Hero of his Times: The depiction of women, especially the femme noir, Brigid, remains basically unchanged in the film version of The Maltese Falcon. Different from The Big Sleep, where the main female protagonist Vivian Sternwood has undergone an extensive remodeling in characterization from book to film, it can by and large be said that Huston¿s Brigid is Hammett¿s Brigid. Therefore, while in our forthcoming film analysis the woman¿s role in shaping the detective¿s heroism will mainly be discussed with regard to alterations in Hawk¿s film version of Chandler¿s novel, I will now examine Brigid¿s function in terms of making Sam Spade a hero of his time.
The Maltese Falcon, first published in the year of the stock market crash 1929, features a woman in a role hitherto widely unknown to her gender in American popular culture; that of a villain. We have seen that frontier literature often featured the role of the woman as symbol for Christian innocence as opposed to wilderness and heretic barbarity, and that she was often the westerner¿s reward and a civilizing influence as in The Virginian.
Brigid O¿Shaugnessy is a character made up in a time in which women increasingly articulated themselves as I have argued in 2.3. After a long struggle, women finally partook in the decision who should govern the country starting in 1920. From the beginning of the century on men already increasingly encountered the opposite gender as a potential challenger in the workplace. Interestingly thus, Brigid, with her lies, greed and sexual attractiveness, which are used to fool and manipulate men, seems to be a literary warning sign: Do not let their nice-to-look-at hips fool you guys, or you might end up under the wheels.
Those who get fooled by Brigid cannot be heroes, as they make it to the end of neither book nor film. Thursby was shot, as was Miles Archer. In the same way that Sam Spade¿s tough masculinity is defined against ¿unmanly men¿ like Cairo and Wilmer, his hardboiled self that nobody fools with stands in contrast to his naive partner, who is unable to see through the deceitful client and pays for this incapability with his life.
When the detectives first interrogate their client in their office, ¿Archer is all-rolling eyes and smacking lips¿, displaying a sexual desire that Spade represses. His self-control, which separates him from ¿the world of social convention [The convention in this case being men making fools of themselves in hope for a sexual attractive woman¿s recognition]¿ lets Spade not only survive Archer but triumph in the end as the world of social convention ¿allows itself to be governed by the law¿. As a result, Spade resisting Brigid¿s siren song simultaneously makes him an American loner in the tradition of frontier men and westerners and a hero of the 1920s, a tumultuous time in terms of gender roles.
Brigid shoots Miles in the heart, and Maxfield claimed an even starker symbolism as apparent in the film where ¿in the actual presentation of the shooting the pistol seems to be pointed somewhat lower¿. Spade¿s self-discipline lets him see through Brigid from the beginning on. When he finally reveals to her that she will be handed over to the police despite everything that was between her and him, he gives three arguments, none of which concerns foolishness like love as a vital matter.
First, it is a professional interest: Spade explains that letting his partner¿s murder go unsolved would be ¿bad business.¿ Second, it is a practical matter: Spade declares that he cannot trust Brigid considering her past relationships to men (Think of what she did to Thursby) and therefore would always have to fear that she might one day turn against him. Third, and maybe decisively, Spade repeatedly tells Brigid that he ¿won¿t play the sap¿ for her, formulating his fear that ¿she will dominate him by means of her sexual desirability¿.

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