Monday, April 13, 2009

Hard-boiled Proust

Vivian Sternwood Rutledge (Lauren Bacall) has been waiting for Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) in the reception room outside his office:

Marlowe: Good morning.

Mrs. Rutledge: So you do get up. I was beginning to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust.

Marlowe: Who's he?

Mrs. Rutledge: You wouldn't know him. A French writer.

Marlowe: Come into my boudoir.

From The Big Sleep (dir. Howard Hawks,1946)
This exchange (in a screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman) is drawn from Chapter Eleven of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel, in which Mrs. Rutledge adds that Proust is "a connoisseur in degenerates" and Marlowe prefaces his invitation with a "Tut, tut."

Related reading
All Proust posts (via Pinboard)

comments: 6

Gilles said...

It's commonplace in some circles to think that most Americans have no culture or are not interested in anything happening outside the U.S. or don't know foreign languages, but one of the best-know experts on Proust, Brian G. Rogers, is actually American. And... Lauren Bacall spoke french fluently.

Michael Leddy said...

I'm American too, and I hope Lauren Bacall still speaks French. I also hope to read Proust in French someday (so far only in the Penguin translations, twice through).

Gilles said...

Sorry! I meant Lauren Bacall spoke french fluently (well... not as fluently as I remembered...) as we can hear in this interview during the "Festival du Film Américain" in Deauville (1989).

INA Link:à-Deauville/id/3404058926

Michael Leddy said...

What a wonderful clip — thanks for sharing the link.

I was joking — I like the idea of Lauren Bacall speaking French, so I hope she still does. It adds something to this scene with Bogart talking about his (Philip Marlowe's) boudoir.

Gilles said...

I thought you thought I thought L. Bacall was dead... Far from it, she still works: she appeared in an episode of The Sopranos in 2006 and we can hear her unique voice in television commercials from time to time.



Michael Leddy said...

I wasn't sure — I also thought a reader might conclude that Lauren Bacall is no longer with us. Think how quickly we could have cleared it up in person!

I remember that episode of The Sopranos well. I think my favorite Bacall role is as Irene Jansen in Dark Passage.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Gilles.