Last Updated 13 Jan 2021

Why Significant Changes Were Made to the Plot

Category Plot
Essay type Research
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Why Significant Changes Were Made to the Plot in The Big Sleep Movie After reading the novel "The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler, then watching the 1946 movie version starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, I found myself asking why are there so many changes to the plot in this movie as compared to the novel. Many significant pieces of the plot were drastically different and there were even certain scenes that had been made up for the movie that were never in the book. After doing some research I was able to come up with many reasons for these significant changes.

Some of the main reasons for there being significant changes is the Hays Code which was a code of rules that all movies were to follow, as well as the chemistry that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall had together. Many of the changes in the movie version of "The Big Sleep" can be credited to the Hays Code. The Hays Code was a set of rules that movies were to follow. Will H. Hays was not the creator of this code however he was the first person to be in charge of enforcing it therefore his name became attached to it (TV Tropes).

Some smaller changes the Hays Code affected are the dealings that go on at Geiger's Book Store as well as Geiger's love interest. In the novel we are told that the book store is actually a front for a pornography store. We are also told in the novel that Arthur Geiger is gay and has a male partner. In the Hays Code it is stated that "The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing. (Arts Reformation). Given this the writers of the screenplay were forced to leave out the fact that the book store was actually a front for a pornographic store. As for the fact that Arthur Geiger was gay and had a male partner, it is stated in the Hays Code that "Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden. " (Arts Reformation). Although a homosexual couple is more widely accepted nowadays, back in the time of the Hays Code it was considered perverse (TV Tropes) and had to be taken out of the movie.

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Two more significant changes that were made to the plot were both of the scenes where Carmen Sternwood was found naked. In the novel when Marlowe goes to Geiger's house he finds Carmen naked in a chair and drugged up. In the movie she has only been drugged, her clothes remain on. The other time that Carmen Sternwood was found naked in the novel was when she was waiting for Marlowe to come home and she was naked in his bed. In the film she is simply sitting in his room waiting for him fully clothed.

Both of these changes can be attributed to the Hays Code. A rule in the Hays Code states "Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture. " (Arts Reformation). Since the filmmakers were not allowed to show nudity they were forced to change the plot which also lead to the photos of Carmen Sternwood that were used to blackmail her not being nude photos of her. A huge change that is made to the plot of the story is how the movie ends.

In the book the climactic scene is where Marlowe is being held at gunpoint by Carmen Sternwood. This is also where Marlowe realizes that Carmen was the murderer. A rule about crime in Hays Code states "Crimes against the law: These shall never be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation. " (Arts Reformation). If Carmen Sternwood had been the murderer then this would have made Marlowe's love interest, Vivian Rutledge, an accessory to murder (Wikipedia).

If Vivian were an accessory to murder she would be committing a crime but the audience may feel sympathy for her since she is in love with the main character. Because of this the writers of the screenplay had to change this. By changing the ending of the movie to having Eddie Mars be killed the writers also solve another conflict with the Hays Code. In the novel Eddie Mars does not actually kill anyone however he was the one who made the murders happen so he was in fact a very bad man who had committed serious crimes.

At the end of the novel Eddie Mars does not come to justice for his crimes. Since the Hays Codes doesn't allow crime to be presented in a way that it will inspire others with a desire for imitation (Arts Reformation), Eddie Mars had to be brought to justice. If people had seen the movie and saw that Eddie Mars had been a murderer and gotten away with it, it could inspire them to imitate him. This is why the writers had to change what happens to Eddie Mars.

A very significant change made to the plot, which is more of an addition to the plot than anything is the fact that Marlowe and Vivian Rutledge have a love interest. In the film Marlowe lets the reader know many times that he is not fond of women. Because of this love interest many scenes were added to the film in which Marlowe and Vivian have conversations of the sexual nature. Before "The Big Sleep" movie was made both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall had starred in a movie called "To Have and Have Not".

This film had a great success with their scenes together and this made the filmmakers want to add more scenes between the two (William Ahearn). When it comes down to it, making Marlowe and Bacall have a relationship is just adding a Hollywood perspective on a novel. Many changes were made to the plot in "The Big Sleep" film. But none of them were made without reason. The Hays Code limited filmmakers to what they could put into movies and changes were made so that the film would be more appealing to the general public.

Works Cited - Ahearn, William. "The Big Sleep (1946)" 2008. November 2012. http://www. williamahearn. com/bs1945. html - "The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (Hays Code)". Arts Reformation. April 2006. November 2012. http://www. artsreformation. com/a001/hays-code. html - "The Big Sleep (1946 Film)". Wikipedia. November 15 2012. November 23 2012. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/The_Big_Sleep_(1946_film)#Cast -"Hays Code". TV Tropes. November 2012. http://tvtropes. org/pmwiki/pmwiki. php/Main/HaysCode

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