Friday, December 21, 2007

The subject is sex

My recent comment about Harper also considered the two filmed versions of The Big Sleep, one of whose characters, the wild, irresponsible Carmen Sternwood, is palely echoed in Harper's Miranda Sampson. (The character is called Camilla in Michael Winner's 1978 Big Sleep remake.) Carmen is the one who pouts at Humphrey Bogart's Marlowe that "You're not very tall, are you?" to which he replies, "Well, I, uh, I try to be."

That's one character, more or less, in three movies from three decades, and, since sex is central to the character, three attitudes toward that interesting subject.

Young Carmen is a drunk, a drug user, and possibly a nymphomaniac and a psychotic, according to some accounts. A pornographer has taken pictures of her, and he uses them to blackmail her father, old General Sternwood. Marlowe finds his way to the pornographer's house, hears gunshots, and bursts in to find Carmen drugged and naked. In Howard Hawks' 1945/46 movie, she is draped in a blanket. In Winner's 1978 version, she is not. That's no surprise; the '70s could show what the '40s hid.

The real eye-opener for me was Harper's version of the character. Miranda Sampson parades around in revealing bikinis, and she drapes herself over any man in sight. So far, nothing exceptional, though she does look good. But it's a hotel-room scene with her and Harper (Paul Newman) that screams "Sixties!!!!!", or at least Hollywood's version of that decade.

Miranda props herself up on the bed, doing her best to seduce Harper as he searches the room. She goes so far as to lie back and slip a cushion under her hips. When Harper, fed up, slams the lights off and suggests that they close the door, though, Miranda springs upright and rolls across the bed in a panic, her virtue intact (to which the knowing Harper replies, "Ha, ha. Mmm, hmm.")

The '40s alluded, the '70s showed, the '60s teased.

And now, readers, your question: What parallel scenes, characters or situations from books or movies of different eras shed light on changing attitudes the way the scenes discussed here do?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Linkmeister said...

I haven't seen a James Bond film since Roger Moore took over, but when Connery was doing them the sex was pretty tame (and in the books it was even more so). So I don't have a clue as to how it has been depicted since Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig became 007. I'd imagine it's a little more explicit.

Little help here?

December 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You might be surprised. I don't know the earlier Bond movies, but the sex in the Daniel Craig Casino Royale was sensual rather than explicit, and tame by contemporary standards. This may be a surprise, since I think the movie is gritty and realistic by Bond-movie standards. It's worth seeing, by the way.

December 21, 2007  

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