Infographic: The Big Parallel

As a lover of all things Lebowski, I’ve heard for years that the Coens stoner opus had drawn significant inspiration from Raymond Chandler’s novel, The Big Sleep, and Howard Hawks’ film of the same name by proxy. After hearing it from multiple sources, I decided that I really needed to see The Big Sleep (1946) to determine the depth of the similarities. Despite the best of intentions, I never actually got around to seeing Hawks’ film–after five or six years–until this past weekend. And sure enough, the people who had told me of the similarities were telling the truth. The similarities are amusing, striking, and served to add to the enjoyment of both films. Here’s an infographic that illustrates just how similar the two films really are:


24 Comments

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24 responses to “Infographic: The Big Parallel

  1. Interesting matey. They do both seem very similar indeed!

  2. Great infographic. I’ve been trying to get friends to watch The Big Sleep for a long time by pointing out how similar it is to The Big Lebowski.

  3. Those are two great films and as you said; each one complete the enjoyment of the other! Excellent infographic!

  4. Who the fuck are the Knutsons???

    (That wasn’t related to anything. I just like saying that.)

    • Actually… there was a guy in The Big Sleep named Lundgren, which is very similar to Lundegard (from Fargo) and definitely has the same Minnesota/Scandinavian lilt as Knutson. I had to pause the movie to look up Bunny/Fawn’s real name to make sure it wasn’t Lundgren.

  5. Phil

    The Dude is always smoking pot and Marlowe is always smoking cigarettes. The famouse coffee throwing scene from The Big Heat is mirrored when the sheriff throws his coffe cup and hits The Dude in the head. There’s a lot more, it’s really brilliant.

  6. I’ve yet to dive into Chandler – even after receiving droves of praise from fellow writers.

    Big Lebowski doesn’t do much for me, but the parallels are bizarre.

  7. Very interesting. I love The Big Lebowski, though I’ve never seen The Big Sleep. I might definitely have to watch that sometime to check out the similarities. At the very least, it does seem similar enough that I should really enjoy it giving how I enjoy The Big Lebowski.

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  9. max m.

    As soon as I saw THE BIG LEBOWSKI at a press screening a week before it’s initial theatrical run, I immediately spotted the parallels between it and THE BIG SLEEP.
    This is nothing new for the Coen Bros. Pulp novels and Film Noir have had a huge impact on their filmmaking style. After all, their first film, BLOOD SIMPLE, was a modern-day Film Noir.
    Another pair of films to compare/contrast would be their terrific 1990 gangster picture MILLER’S CROSSING and the 1942 Stuart Heisler picture, based on the book by Dashiell Hammet, THE GLASS KEY, starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, and Brian Donlevy. Both films follow a love triangle between a crime boss, his stoic, wise-talking right-hand man, and a whip-smart woman. The other half of the MILLER’S CROSSING narrative can also be found in Hammet’s book RED HARVEST, featuring his Continental Op character. That story involves a nameless detective pitting two rival gangs against each other in a small town. Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa also used that story, as well as several elements from THE GLASS KEY, for his celebrated Samurai masterpiece YOJIMBO, which Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone would remake three years later as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.

    Another Coen Bros. film to borrow heavily from a Film Noir classic is their 2001 film THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE. That picture has several similarities to the 1946 Tay Garnett film THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, with John Garfield and Lana Turner.

    The Coens aren’t exclusively influenced by Film Noir, however. They are also huge fans of the great comedy filmmaker, Preston Sturges. Their 1994 picture THE HUDSUCKER PROXY is an homage to Sturges’ manic style of 1940s comedy. The name Hudsucker (a recurring theme in early Coen Bros. films such as RAISING ARIZONA, the Sam Raimi directed CRIMEWAVE, which was scripted by the Coens, and even in an early draft of THE EVIL DEAD) was cribbed from a Sturges screenplay, as well as lines of dialogue, and minor plot similarities that mirror such Sturges films as THE GREAT McGINTY and HAIL, THE CONQUERING HERO. Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character, however is based on Rosiland Russell’s character from Howard Hawks’ brilliant 1940 comedy HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

    Another Sturges parallel is the title of their 2000 comedy O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? was taken from the director’s 1941 picture SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS. It was the name of the film that Joel McCrea’s filmmaker character is hoping to get made.

    • That is a wonderfully insightful comment. Thanks for sharing.

      I definitely knew that there were quite a few Sturges ties- for instance, the name Norville in Hudsucker is the same name as the protag in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. And the O Brother name… when I saw Sullivan’s Travels and they mentioned that name, my jaw hit the floor.

  10. rtm

    Congrats on making IMDb hitlist, John!

  11. Pat Hobby

    “I’m a brother shamus.”
    “Brother Seamus? Like an Irish monk?”

  12. Andrew

    Another important thing you forgot is that they both have a soiled rug. The Big Sleep’s rug had blood on it and The Big Lebowski’s had pee on it.

  13. also two films deffo worth checking out, which also had as much influence on the film is THE LONG GOODBYE and CUTTERS WAY. THE LONG GOODBYE like the big sleep is also based on raymond chandler novel and his titular p.i. charcater phillip marlowe. filmed by robert altman and starring elliot gould, it diverted from the novel and howard hawks version of marlowe by setting it in contempory los angeles rather then the noir 1940’s and making marlowe more of hippie laid back figure: something the coen brothers expanded on in the big lebowski. the scene right at the beggining of THE LONG GOODBYE shows marlowe searching for milk in the supermarket for his cat, wghere in lebowski the dude is on an errand in the supermarket to find milk for his white russian. it was panned for not being faithful to chandelrs vision but the coens loved its take and did a very good pastiche of it. CUTTERS WAY.is less simillar but still has an influence. it actually stars a younger fitter jeff bridges, (prob why the coens wanted him for the role of the dude) and is similar in plot to two everyday men (bridges and john heard) getting caught up in a murder mystery that they try to solve. seriously i cant recommend both if you do like the big lebowski and the coen brothers influence below is a you tube link to the long good bye

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  15. Bella

    This helped me so much with my A Level Film exam on US Comparative Cinema, in which I had to compare the Big Lebowski and the Big Sleep, thank you so much

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