Monday, December 14, 2009

Leigh Brackett-Edmond Hamilton -The Big Sleep

Dave Truesdale at Tangent on-line has posted an extraordinary and very long 1976 interview with Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton, the last before their deaths. The interview is accompanied by appreciations from jack Williamson and James Gunn.

Here's an excerpt with Leigh Brackett discussing her work on the first film of The Big Sleep:

TANGENT: In The Big Sleep, Leigh, there's always a question Bogart fans seem to ask: Whatever happened to the chauffeur? He just dropped out about halfway through.
BRACKETT: The whole thing is confusing; the novel is confusing. I was down at the set one day and Bogart asked me who killed Owen Taylor, the chauffeur, and I said I didn't know, and they asked Bogart and he didn't know, and Hawks said let's send Chandler a wire and find out, and his answer came back, “I don't know.” It's a very confusing plot and one of my favorite novels because the forward momentum is so tremendous and the characters are so interesting that you really don't care.
HAMILTON: The Big Sleep appeared in the summer of 1946. I was assiduously playing court to this young lady, and so I was living with my sister in Arcadia and I had to go all the way downtown---not having a car at that time―to see that. Well, I got in on the middle of that damn picture, and let me tell's confusing enough when you get in on the beginning of that picture. But the picture improves; by that I mean that when you overcome all the mind boggling difficulties with plot and so on-- I liked it better than I ever used to. It really had a beautiful tempo.

TANGENT: What was it like working with William Faulkner? I've heard a lot about his peculiarities.

BRACKETT: Well, he did used to disappear in the middle of a script from time to time. It didn't bother me because in any real sense we didn't work together. This was my first big job; I had had one job at Republic a month or so before doing a thing called The Vampire's Ghost, and I was three weeks on the script with another writer, and they shot the film in ten days and that was two days over schedule (laughing). They fired the cameraman after the second day because he was taking too much time. But uh, it was not the greatest film ever made.

So then this thing was dropped into my lap because Howard had read the book and liked the dialogue and put me under contract, and I'm making this thing with Humphrey Bogart, who, you know, is my favorite actor, and William Faulkner's already on the script. I walk in, you know, feeling about this big and I think how in the world am I going to work with Faulkner. Well, there was no problem. He greeted me courteously. He put the book down and said, “We will do alternate sections. You will do these chapters and I will do these chapters,” and so on. But that's the way he wanted it done. He turned around and walked into his office and I never saw him again, except to say good morning. He lived behind a wall about eight feet thick. I think you could have worked with that man for ten years and never known him. He had a few close friends... He did, he disappeared occasionally.

for the rest go here:


Mathew Paust said...

What a find! Thanks for pointing us to it.

In a way, the confusion and the "perfect murder" of Owen Taylor are so life like, aren't they. It's the characters and the language and the journey that matter in the end.

Rick Ollerman said...

My mind is gradually disappearing, but if I recall correctly, one of the short stories the "Sleep" drew from told who killed the chauffeur. Didn't it? Anyone? I thought I remembered the name of the story but I'm sharp as a marble lately.

Anyway, once I read that story it sure seemed that Chandler simply dropped that little ball when he went through his process to produce a novel from the stories.

Marbles being what they are, though, one never knows. But I really think I read that. Really I do.

Mathew Paust said...

I think you're right, Rick, as it tinkles a little bell in my becobwebbing synapses, too. I don't have the book handy, but I shall seek it out, and may have the answer later today. Then again, sometimes it's more fun to leave the smaller mysteries dangling...

Deb said...

I was in college in the 1970s and had a professor who assigned "The Big Sleep." It was my first exposure to hardboiled/noir/pulp (call it what you will). I distinctly remember the professor discussing the fact that we never learn who kills the chauffeur and in the movie they just dumped everything on one character--Canino? Mars?

Dan_Luft said...

Love "The Big Sleep" and I also love that, 30 years later, Brackett did the script for Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye." That was a great movie too until the very last minute when the ending changes. I think they may have done that to shock Chandler fans. Well, I was shocked and disappointed.

Brian Drake said...

The short story "Sleep" was based on, or one of them, anyway, was "Killer in the Rain". Most of the "Sleep" elements are in that story, though Chandler changed names and expanded a lot. It's a good read but not as well written as the novel.

You will be tickled to know that the murderer of Owen Taylor--Carl Owen in the short story--also remains a mystery in "Killer in the Rain". Lots of talk, hints that Joe Marty (Joe Brody in the novel) did the deed, but nobody knows for sure. Everybody thinks Joe doesn't look like a killer, and maybe they're wrong. Maybe Joe did do it but knew he'd be facing the chair so he pulled off an Oscar-winning act and convinced everybody he didn't do it. And nobody followed up because they all figured Owen killed Steiner (Geiger in the book) so he got what he deserved, too.

Poor Owen. He'll always be a loose end....

Kenneth Mark Hoover said...

Great interview. I liked this a lot, thanks for sharing.