The Big Sleep and Twin Peaks

By Pamela Tarajcak

Lately, because of my interest in Humphrey Bogart  I decided to take in the film, “The Big Sleep.” 

Imagine, a film that had been described by critics as muddled, convoluted, a mess “plot wise.” Yes, we David Lynch fans have heard those descriptions plenty of times for films as straightforward as Dune to even his most surreal work in Inland Empire, but especially used to scathing heights for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  But it was also used for one of Bogart’s most memorable films, “The Big Sleep.” The parallels don’t end there.  

Least of all, there are two old men whose last name is Sternwood.  Two characters, Old Mr. Sternwood in The Big Sleep, and Harold Smith in Twin Peaks, are avid orchid cultivators.  A place which holds books is a front for another organization entirely: the Geiger books which houses illegal activities in the “Big Sleep” and the Bookhouse houses our Dear Bookhouse Boys.  There are scenes which take place in casinos where girls wearing cowboy costumes (remember the vacummer with Mr. Battis?) wander around.  

These are small comparisons in view of the larger one with Audrey Horne and the two Sternwood Daughters, Vivian (yet another comparison, however slight), and Carmen.  Both seemed entirely merged together to create our dear Ms. Horne.  

In the beginning of the film, Philip Marlowe, (Bogart) comes to the Sternwood mansion to accept a case, and is promptly set upon by Mr. Sternwood’s younger daughter, Carmen (Martha Vickers), who is entirely too young for him, but she is nonetheless intrigued by this older, sexy gentleman at her door.  She flirts shamelessly with him, playing with her hair and being the general coquette around him.  Sound familiar? Also, she constantly repeats to Marlowe, that he’s “cute,” just as Audrey repeats to Cooper, about him being her “Special Agent.”   When finally admitted to Sternwood’s presence, Marlowe has chance to discuss both daughters with the old man, as both of them are very pertinent to the coming case.  The General described Carmen as “still a little child who likes to pull the wings off flies.” (Quoted from Tim Robey, “The Big Sleep Review,” The Telegraph, 12 August 2014  Again sound familiar? The pencil in the coffee cup and “the Norwegians are leaving.”

Not only that but Carmen and Audrey are put in a very similar situation in the plotlines of their respective pieces.  Carmen is caught in a situation where she is heavily drugged in a compromising situation where her picture is taken and she is blackmailed (largely because of said situation).  Marlowe who has been tracking the villain of the first half of the film, Geiger, finds Carmen in said villain’s house and “rescues her.”  Again, sound familiar?  Audrey in One Eyed Jack’s and Cooper’s rescue of her.  Albeit Cooper rescues Audrey far more gently than Marlowe’s harsh slapping of Carmen to rouse her and tossing her on her sister’s bed once rescued to have her sleep off the drugs.  
On another parallel note, Geiger keeps a coded notebook in his house with names and references about said names, perhaps blackmailees or girls he’s using?  Again, sound familiar?  Battis’s notebook that Audrey discovers in his Horne’s office.  The one with Ronette’s name and all the names of intended hospitality girls?  Lastly, the villain changes through the film from Geiger to Mars, just as the main villain of Twin Peaks changes from Leo, to Bob, to Bob/Leland, to Jean Renault, to Earle.

Another comparison can be found with Audrey and the older daughter Vivian (Lauren Bacall), “spoilt, exacting, smart and ruthless” (again, Quoted from Robey’s review).  Vivian orders everyone around like she owns them, including Marlowe and the family Butler. She’s also the one that has embraced her own sexuality and knows how to use it.  This also fits Audrey to a “T.” Her interview with Battis inveigling him to allow her to work the Perfume counter comes to mind.  So does her subsequent interview with Blackie and the legendary tying of the cherry stem.  So does her subsequent interrogation of Battis at One Eyed Jacks, which leads to that very ruthless, spoilt, and memorable line, “I’m Audrey Horne and I get what I want.”  Remember Audrey ordering Uncle Jerry around when Jerry didn’t want to break Ben of his Civil War obsession?  Audrey wanted her father back and knew that she had the legal right to tell everyone that she needed order back in Horne industries.  

In short, what I am saying is though all serious Twin Peaks fanatics know that Vertigo, Sunset Boulevard, and Laura are films which heavily influenced Lynch to create the masterpiece which we know and love.  We also should check out the Big Sleep for some interesting parallels as well, and be amazed.

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