I’ve long thought that what happened to the 1946 film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep is great illustration of two distinct ways of looking at the noir genre. The Howard Hawks-directed movie was originally completed in 1945 with a tight, clever narrative (adapted primarily by William Faulkner) that fully explained the case that Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe had gotten himself wrapped up in.
But as the pairing of Bogart with Lauren Bacall was becoming a national phenomenon, producer Jack Warner was convinced to add new scenes with the couple. The film that was finally released was only two minutes longer, but it had more than 20 minutes of different footage. It also made no sense, because what was cut out to allow for the new scenes was the explanation of what was actually going on. Most people didn’t care too much, because the Bogie and Bacall scenes feature some of the best onscreen chemistry in the history of film, and the released version’s quintessential noir attitude and atmosphere helped make it a huge hit. Only in 1997 did the public get to see the complete original version, sparking a debate about what is more important to successful noir: a great story, or incredible style?
I put this question to Susie Bright and Willow Pennell, the editor and associate editor of the new Santa Cruz Noir anthology, and they came back with a split decision on The Big Sleep. Bright prefers the story-first approach of the original, untinkered-with film, while Pennell felt the added scenes between the co-stars are why we consider it one of the best noir films of all time today. I just like that this team of noir editors had a representative from both camps; it certainly helps explain why the resulting book is full of both tightly wound narratives and endless hardboiled atmosphere. In my cover story this week, they explain what it took to pull together this short-fiction walk through Santa Cruz County’s dark side. It’s a thrilling, whip-smart book that will dazzle local lovers of crime fiction, and I hope you enjoy this look at how it was made.
Letters to the Editor
Thank you for your article on Michael Pollan and his mind-altering experimentation (GT, 5/30).
This is not new to Santa Cruz, however. Santa Cruz has been fertile ground for experimentation from the early 1960s to present day. Please reference the work Ralph Abraham and others have done in this regard at HipSantaCruz.org.
In 1977, Linkage, a small group of futuristic visionaries, brought Dr. Albert Hofmann, the person who inadvertently discovered LSD, to UCSC for his first visit to the United States for a conference entitled “LSD – A Generation Later.” This was a time when many of the second generation of mind explorers laid the groundwork for what was erroneously mislabeled as the “New Age.”
The process for mind exploration was laid by many professional people from all walks of life with much emphasis on the pioneering work of Ralph Metzner, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass,) and Timothy Leary. (In spite of the controversial media coverage in those days precipitated by President Richard Nixon, who thought Leary was “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” He was arrested and imprisoned as a “political prisoner” for a half a joint found in his car!)
There was a second conference at UCSC in 1981 that paved the way for the integration of the experimental and spiritual work that laid the foundation for Pollan’s recent successful explorations. This foundation was laid by many people in the Bay Area who maintained the unwavering belief that there is a different lifestyle that can bring love, peace, and nutriment to our planet and its peoples. It continues to this day. Thank you, Michael, for being a current champion and taking us another step forward toward the fifth generation.
Lynda Francis | Santa Cruz
The city of Santa Cruz is currently considering where to put the next homeless camp, after River Street. At the Council meeting last Tuesday, after the public expressed passionate opposition to each of the sites under consideration, Councilwoman Cynthia Chase said that there would be opposition to any site. In other words, a camp is going somewhere—public be damned.
I am part of the opposition to the Soquel Park and Ride site. Why would I not want a homeless camp near my house? Surely you have heard the arguments already. So where should a homeless camp go? For me to propose another site would be to accept the city’s premise that there must be a homeless camp, and to say that someone else’s neighborhood is less worthy of protection than my own. Instead, I invite every resident to fearlessly and enthusiastically stand up for their own neighborhood. If you don’t, then who will? It is time that we all stand up to the guilt-tripping and intimidation from local government on the homeless issue. Enough is enough.
Geoffrey Ellis | Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is committed to fight climate change. Half of our carbon emissions come from cars. We need public transit that truly serves our needs. We need safe and simple bike infrastructure that gets people out of their cars. End of story. So let’s do this!
The Rail and Trail leaves our options open for electric light-rail or battery-electric rail if and when the investment makes economic sense (I would argue that it makes ecological sense today, but we’ll fight that battle later.) It would be incredibly short sighted to remove that possibility, especially when there is plenty of room along the corridor for the trail. The corridor was built for massive freight trains—it can fit a small, quiet light rail (or buses, or any number of other possibilities).