“Murder, My Sweet” and “The Big Bang”
Film noirs have had a history of using two diametrically opposed archetypes to illustrate acceptable and unacceptable desires, ambitions, and social behavior that need narrative resolution. The film “Murder, My Sweet” is no different. In this movie Ann and Helen are opposed against each other, vying for Philip Marlowe’s desire, while Marlowe himself and Ann’s father are opposed with each other with regards to their professional and social desires.
“Murder, My Sweet” utilizes a variety of techniques in order to indicate to the audience which female lead is the acceptable desire and which one is the one that needs to be rejected and removed. Throughout the film Helen Grayle, the blonde bombshell wife of Mr. Grayle, is contrasted with Mr. Grayle’s daughter Ann, who is described as having a “face like a Sunday school picnic” by Philip Marlowe. Furthermore, Ann is mostly shot in high key lighting thus eliminating her shadow, and consequently eliminating any air of mystery surrounding her. However, Helen was always shot with a slight shadow on her meaning that she wasn’t being completely honest and was hiding something from Philip Marlowe. In addition, costuming also played a factor in helping the audience surmise which female was the deceitful one. While Helen was dressed in provocative clothing with daring silhouettes and colors, Ann was mostly dressed conservatively and in softer colors inferring her gentle nature. Finally, we know to reject Helen because she is an adulterer and uses her sexual wiles to get what she wants from men. This tells us that she is not a part of what society deems to be moral and thus must be eliminated in order for Philip Marlowe to be able to resolve his sexual and domestic desires appropriately and with the right person. However, the movie “The Big Bang”, which is a loose adaptation of “Murder, My Sweet”, utilizes different techniques to contrast the women....