I've written about this before, but each time I watch The Big Sleep, I'm surprised people affect finding the plot so hard to follow. I was reminded of this as I watched it yet again on Air NZ to LA yesterday. The famous story about the screenwriters being unable to figure out one murder in Raymond Chandler's novel may have prompted this response, but, just for the record, here's the scorecard of the seven killings:
1. Geiger (blackmailer, pornographer) killed by chauffeur Owen Taylor to protect Carmen Sternwood
2. Taylor killed by Joe Brody (played by Louis Jean Heydt, pictured left, with the impressive Sonia Darrin as Agnes Lowzier, an appropriate surname) to get blackmail film he took from Geiger
3. Brody killed by Carol Lundgren (Geiger's chaffeur & lover, note the ambiguous name) in mistaken revenge
4. Harry Jones (replacing Brody as Agnes' dogsbody) killed by Canino to shut him up about Eddie Mars' wife
5. Canino, gunned down by Marlowe in self-defense, but also for Jonesy
6. Eddie Mars, shot by Marlowe but killed by his own men, set to trap and kill Marlowe
7. Sean Regan (already dead when story starts) killed by Carmen
Bogart's Marlowe also seems to have sex-appeal like Stacy Keach's Mike Hammer. Women keep giving him the eye, and, because this is a Howard Hawks film (and taking place during World War II) they are often eyeing him more or less as equals. Which makes a great contrast to the way Martha Vickers' Carmen is presented--and an even bigger contrast to the way Chandler draws her, where she disgusts Marlowe. These Hawks-type babes, of whom Lauren Bacall, is an archetype, include:
1. Librarian (Carole Douglas) 'you're not the antiquarian book type'
2. Dorothy Malone's Acme Bookshop owner, who literally lets her hair down (after taking off her glasses) and whom, after their interlude, Marlowe calls 'pal', a very Hawksian touch
3. Countergirl (Deannie Best) who lights Marlowe's cigarette; the kind of male perogitive women often exercise in Hawks' films
4. Taxi Driver (Joy Barlow) 'nights are better, I work days'
5. Hat check (Lorraine Miller) and Cigarette girl (Shelby Payne) at Eddie Mars' club and
6 Marlowe calls Mona Mars (Peggy Knudsen) 'my kind of gal', for the way she stands by Eddie Mars.
It might be interesting also to consider the over/under on how many of these women spent time on the Hawks casting couch. And on just how important Jules Furthman's one-liners are to the excellent script, written with Leigh Brackett, who probably provided a fair few herself, and William Faulkner.