No Good From a Corpse: Why I am a Leigh Brackettologist
1) The similes, perhaps not as funny as Raymond Chandler's but perhaps sharper and with more of an edge, e.g.:
"He was a little man with a large head and a face like a healthy, sunburned frog."2) An eye for detail that let Brackett make familiar points in unexpected ways, as in:
"Vince Klingman lived in a neat, old-fashioned cottage near Western Avenue. The lawn was green and the white fence had all the pickets in it."or
"The butler paused. His correct front dissolved enough to show a resigned and patient loathing."3) A knack, also apparent in her screenplay for El Dorado, for combining humor and violene in ways that are shocking without seeming gratuitous. An example:
"Vivien giggled. `Blood pressure. We're always hoping he'll have a stroke, but he never does.'"4) She knew how to say funny things in ways that made them even funnier:
"Johnny wormed his face through a froth of pink chiffon ruffles and said, `Hiya, Ed.'"In fact, I like that scene so much that I'll give you a bit more of it:
"The blonde's fist caught him on the side of the head. Clive turned over three times and hit a table, causing a crash and an explosion of splinters.5) Like Chandler, Leigh Brackett had an eye for the despoilation of Los Angeles:
"Kethrin set her bottle on the floor, clapped her hands together, and said solemnly, `Whee.' Clive rolled over, shaking his head and kicking pieces of table out of his way. The blonde advanced, breathing heavily.
"`Now,' she roared, `he busts my furnicha!'"
"They get water from an ocean inlet down at Del Rey. We kids used to spend most of our time down there, fishing and swimming.6) Brackett wrote a convincing male P.I. protagonist who appreciates the dames but who nonetless expresses his appreciation with a dressmakerly precision that I can't imagine from a male author:
"You wouldn't want to swim there now. The banks are black with seeping oil, and the water's black, too, and it stinks. There aren't any fish in it now."
"The soft wool of her dress was gathered and bloused, so that her full sharp curves were hinted at rather than seen ..."
© Peter Rozovsky 2013
Labels: Leigh Brackett