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Hardboiled Hollywood

Traces of American Heroism and Cultural Change in the Portrayals of the Detective Hero in the Maltese Falcon and the Big Sleep

Magisterarbeit 2006 96 Seiten

Amerikanistik - Literatur


I have chosen the two films that will be subjected to examination in this work because they have a lot in common at first glance. Their scripts are based on crime novels of the so called „hardboiled school,” a stream in American popular literature that developed after the First World War. They were both filmed in the 1940s and produced by the Warner Brothers studio. No scholarly or critical discussion of the Hollywood genre of film noir is complete without them, and they both feature Humphrey Bogart as the main actor in the role of the private eye.
What I hope to show this thesis is not only that these films, despite the similarities outlined above, are far from being basically the same movies, but additionally to give convincing reasons why this is the case. One of these reasons will be the evaluation of the fact that the literary private eyes that the heroes of John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946) are based on already differ in their character concept, and that these differences correspondingly found their way to the screen in the adaptations.
A further decisive point for measuring the differences between the films is that I will assume that these movies were financial successes because they reflected the times that they were made in and thus gave movie audiences what they wanted to see. That movies are products of their time is a fact as blatant as it is true, yet one that has repeatedly been called into question in the past. The Hollywood genre system, the directors, the financial interests of the movie-making industry have all been pointed out as shaping a movie and its content rather than some mysterious connection between a film and the popular mind, the convictions, dreams and anxieties of the masses commonly referred to as a people’s culture.
But although I do not doubt the significance of the factors mentioned above, I agree with Albert Quart and Leonard Auster who pointed out that filmmakers are human beings and parts of their societies, and that, consequently, they „are touched by the same tensions and fantasies and their profits are usually dependent on their ability to guess popular feelings”. Will Wright similarly argued that the popular success of a movie can be considered as evidence that it struck a nerve with contemporary audiences, as stars and promotion campaigns promising action-filled escapist fantasies alone have frequently turned out to be insufficient […]


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
741 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Bielefeld – Linguistik und Literaturwissenschaft, Anglistik
literaturwissenschaft film noir raymond chandler dashiell hammett amerikanistik



Titel: Hardboiled Hollywood