Thursday, November 6th, 2003
4:43 pm - Visual Aids  
I've mentioned before that description in novels is often wasted on me. Unless I really concentrate, I have a very hard time making the leap from the words on the page to an image of the scene or person in my mind. Usually, I decide it's just too much trouble, and the characters remain faceless to me. Thus it usually helps when I've seen a film or TV adaptation prior to reading, because then I can grab the image of the actor playing the part, and insert it into the narrative as I'm reading.

For example, last week I read Ellis Peters' One Corpse Too Many, one of the Brother Cadfael mysteries. I've seen a bunch of the Cadfael episodes on PBS, so the image of Derek Jacobi as Cadfael was already firmly lodged in my mind, and that image does seem to fit with what's on the page, at least until I try to imagine Jacobi/Cadfael as an ex-soldier/ex-sea captain. The book, itself, was fine, except that if you already know that Hugh Beringar can't possibly be the murderer, you're really only left with one suspect. Also, there's a very nice map of the Shrewsbury area in the front of the book, but I'm not sure Peters ever actually looked at it. I did just obtain the rest of the series, so I'll no doubt read more of them.

There are times when it doesn't work at all. I got into Nero Wolfe through the TV series that ran in the early eighties, and when I started reading the books, the image of William Conrad as Wolfe meshed perfectly with what I was seeing on the page. However, Lee Horsley as Archie Goodwin? That I was never able to reconcile. (Tim Hutton, however, was dead on in the recent A&E series.)

I'm having a similar problem now with Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye. I'm trying to adapt the images I have of either Bogart or Mitchum to Philip Marlowe as he's written, and I just can't do it. Marlowe is an educated man, and neither actor comes off on screen as educated enough for me. I'll admit,though, that it's been a long time since I've seen the movies, so I don't really remember their actual performances as Marlowe all that well. I'm going mostly by their other roles. Mitchum's Marlowe is a little fresher in my mind than Bogart's, but that's not saying much, considering I completely forgot which Marlowe film he was in.

The book was confusing me quite a bit early on, because it didn't seem to match what little I remembered of the movie at all. I remembered Robert Mitchum's narration about Joe DiMaggio's streak, which occurred in 1941, running through the film. The book I was reading was clearly set in the early fifties. Charlotte Rampling's character didn't seem to be there, either. So I went over to IMDb and looked it up. Okay, the movie I was remembering was Farewell my Lovely. D'oh! The film version of The Long Goodbye has Elliott Gould as Marlowe.

Blink... Blink... Trapper John... Papa Geller... Nope. Still can't imagine it. I'll have to watch this movie someday.

I do like the book a lot so far, even though I am having a hard time following Marlowe's reasons for befriending Terry Lennox. Oh, yeah, in the weird coincidence of the day, the part of Terry Lennox was played in the film by Jim Bouton, of all people, whose Ball Four is my currently sitting on my nightstand. He does look a bit like the description of Lennox, but Bouton sure doesn't speak with Lennox's faux English accent.
 
 
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Veejaneveejane on November 6th, 2003 - 02:26 pm
I've never seen the move version of The Long Goodbye for the same (Trapper John??) reason as you. If I'm going to see it -- especially now I've read it -- I don't want to see an ironic version. I want to see it played straight.

Bogart was, in fact, raised pretty much as an aristocrat in New York. I don't think he bothered with all that much education, but he is widely remarked to have had manners and morals that were very old-school (in a kind, responsible way). I think it was just weird luck that he ended up in villain/sleaze-o roles for the first half of his career. (Mitchum, OTOH, made much of being a dimestore hood, and by all accounts liked it that way.)

When I try to imagine Marlowe, he is curiously indistinct -- I see the 50s suit like a breasplate, and the hat, and then, the face is a vague guess at what Chandler looked like, at age 30. (I have a photo of him at age 45, from his biography, but I don't think anything earlier.)

Why did Marlowe pick up Terry Lennox? It's one of those mysteries of fiction -- and sometimes, rarely, real life -- where two people look at each other and suddenly find some matching pieces. (Same thing is happening to me in Daniel Deronda.) If I had to spell it out, I'd say Marlowe saw a potential version of himself, and was too polite to let Lennox humiliate himself, and it grew from there.
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DXMachinadxmachina on November 7th, 2003 - 07:07 am
Yeah, the couple of the interviews I've seen of Bogart showed him to be a bit of a sophisticate, but it so goes against the type he played in most of his films that it's jarring. Even then, I never bought Bogart in Sabrina, and that's probably closer to his real personna than any other role of his.
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Larisa Grahamlarisa57 on November 6th, 2003 - 05:25 pm
Do you also have trouble getting mental images of things from hearing descriptions of them? I can get really detailed images from reading descriptions, but absolutely nothing from listening to them. I can't really process any of the imagery in a poem that I just hear (I can understand the words, but don't really get the metaphors and things like that until I actually read it), and listening to talk radio just frustrates me.
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DXMachinadxmachina on November 7th, 2003 - 07:11 am
I'd never really thought about it, but I don't think I have that problem. Visual images from songs and such tend to stick with me pretty well.
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deborah gdebg on November 6th, 2003 - 08:33 pm
The Long Goodbye is my favourite Chandler, by about a light-year; I'm deeply and fiercely protective of it. And No matter what I do, I can't sync any acytor at all up to look like Phillip Marlowe in my head, although oddly - in the modern vein - I could see Uma Thurman as the perfect Eileen Wade.

Alas, the only person who could possibly play her redheaded sister who sleeps with (and later marries) Marlowe?

That would be me.

I do rather like Maury Chaykin's Nero Wolfe, but everything pales next to Tim Hutton's Archie. Dear God. Perfection in spats.
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DXMachinadxmachina on November 7th, 2003 - 07:17 am
So you're married to Archie in New York and Marlowe in LA? Nice...

I didn't like Chaykin as much as Conrad, because I thought he played Wolfe a bit too much over the top. Otherwise, I liked the casting of the A&E series a lot. Hutton was dead-on perfect.
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deborah gdebg on November 7th, 2003 - 08:05 am
Hell, why not have one in each city? Although Linda left Marlowe, if I recall correctly; it didn't work out. Really all about the sex.

One bit of casting - or rather colouring - they got wrong in the most recent Nero Wolfe series was having the actress playing Lily Rowan wear a black beehive wig. What in hell? Anyone who knows their Stout knows she's a small Irish blonde.

***sigh*** Archie. I love that she called him "Escamillo".
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DXMachinadxmachina on November 7th, 2003 - 09:08 am
I don't remember the wig, but I did like the actress in the part (Kari Wuhrer, I think). Of course, she was part of the ensemble, so she was playing a different part every week.
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deborah gdebg on November 7th, 2003 - 09:20 am
Yup, Kari Wuhrer, and she was brilliant. The wig was, I think, in the one where Orrie Cather is arrested for his girlfriend's murder. Remember? Archie calls Lily to find out the best approach to Avery Ballou's wife? And there's Lily, in a black beehive hairdo.

WRONG, dudes. Small blonde.
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