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Hollywood Through Private Eyes

The Screen Adaptation of the ‘Hard-Boiled’ Private Detective Novel in the Studio Era


Philip Kiszely

The private detective novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane have provided the source for some of Hollywood’s most successful, controversial and baffling films. Spanning almost the whole of the studio era, the private eye mini-genre boasted stars like William Powell, Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell, as well as top-calibre directors John Huston, Edward Dmytryk and Robert Aldrich. Yet the movies themselves still manage to remain something of an enigma: MGM’s influential adaptation of Hammett’s The Thin Man has been all but ignored by critics and historians, while classic entries such as The Maltese Falcon and Murder, My Sweet are usually considered only within the wider context of film noir. This book provides a new perspective on the private eye mini-genre of the studio area. Drawing extensively on archival material, Hollywood Through Private Eyes links the private eye screen adaptation to its novelistic source, charting the journey from page to screen and exploring the key influences along the way.
Contents: From the Bowery Detective to Mike Hammer – Hammett in Hollywood – Zanuckism – Making Sense of Chandler – Subjective Viewpoints – The End Justifying the Means – A Solution to the Hollywood Problem.