The Big Sleep: Howard Hawks’s Hollywood Fantasy

Part of the Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television book series (CRFT)


This chapter focuses on staging and découpage in Howard Hawks’s The Big Sleep, showing the ways in which Hawks pushes “classical” formal principles of balance and elegance to something like their limits, imbuing the film with a practically mannerist aestheticism in the process. Linking these aesthetic a formal choices to the film’s production history, it shows how Hawks and his collaborators worked to strip much of the hard-boiled realism from Raymond Chandler’s original novel in order to transform the story into the basis for a romantic fantasy starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I go on to show that the presentation and elaboration of this fantasy is highly self-conscious, its very smoothness and formal perfection calling attention to its constructed and fabricated nature, and its distance from anything resembling “ordinary” life.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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