Raymond Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep, is a crime novel that focuses on detective Philip Marlowe trying to find out who is attempting to blackmail General Sternwood. Marlowe is an honest, tight-lipped detective hero. Chandler’s crime novel was turned into a film noir movie in 1946. In the film, Marlowe is a witness of death, murder, smut, and crime every day, but he remains honorable.
Film noir is a type of movie crime drama that evolved in the 1940s. There are several aspects of noir films, which include: the detective hero rescues the hero from criminal plots; the agent of the law and outlaw who acts outside the structures of legal authority for the sake of a personal definition of justice; and the detective understands that the orders, establishments and powers of the metropolis are corrupt. “The Big Sleep” and (Howard Hawks, 1946) “Double Indemnity” (Billy Wilder, 1944) are two examples of film noirs that include these aspects.
After a night at the Cypress Club, Marlowe drops Vivian Sternwood off at her father’s mansion. Before he arrives at his apartment, Carmen Sternwood talks her way in to Marlowe’s apartment, where she waits for him naked on his bed. When he arrives home, Marlowe smells a woman’s perfume.
Marlowe says, “I went over to a floor lamp and pulled the switch, went back to put off the ceiling light, and went across the room again to the chessboard on a card table under the lamp. There was a problem laid out on the board, a six-mover. I couldn’t solve it, like a lot of my problems. I reached down and moved a knight, then pulled my hat and coat off and threw them somewhere. All this time the soft giggling went on from the bed, that sound that made me think of rats behind wainscoting in an old house” (Chandler 154). In this scene, Marlowe is living by his own personal code of honor for the sake of justice.
Marlowe says, “I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn’t a game for knights” (Chandler 156).
At the beginning of the novel, Marlowe sees a stained glass portrait of a knight setting a woman free at General Sternwood’s mansion. Although Carmen is giggling and naked on Marlowe’s bed, he refuses to take advantage of her. The knight shows symbolism later in the novel since his actions towards her prove that although he might lose the game of chess, he still acted like a knight, or a hero, to Carmen.
Walter Neff is a successful insurance salesman for Pacific All Risk in the movie “Double Indemnity” (Billy Wilder, 1944). Phyllis Dietrichson quickly lets him know that she is in an unhappy marriage. The two of them plot a way to kill Mr. Dietrichson.
Neff believed that by killing Mr. Dietrichson, he would be freeing Mrs. Dietrichson of her misery.
Marlowe found out Owen Taylor’s motive for killing Geiger. Taggart Wilde, the local district attorney, saw three notes signed by Carmen Sternwood when he sat down with Marlowe.
Wilde says, “I guess these were just a come-on. If General Sternwood paid them, it would be through fear of something worse. Then Geiger would have tightened the screws. Do you know what he was afraid of? Have you told your story complete in all relevant details?” (Chandler 111).
Marlowe says he left some details out.
Marlowe says, “Because my client is entitled to that protection, short of anything but a Grand Jury. I have a license to operate as a private detective. I suppose that word ‘private’ has some meaning” (Chandler 112).
The men are trying to figure out who was at Arthur Gwynn Geiger’s house the night Geiger was killed. Since Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family, he does not want Wilde to know that Carmen was at the murder scene.
Although Marlowe is withholding, he is living by his own private code for the sake of justice.
Marlowe says, “But what the hell am I to do? I’m on a case. I’m selling what I…