In order to gain an understanding of the varying representation of masculinity through the 1940's, I have decided to study two films in detail, The Big Sleep (1946), and Dead Reckoning (1947), and to compare them where relevant to the earlier film The Maltese Falcon (1941). My reasoning behind these choices is two-fold. Firstly I feel the later films give clear examples of a "crisis of masculinity" in the post-war male. I was also influenced by the fact that Humphrey Bogart takes the lead male role in each film, thus making comparisons, and differences between his characters easier. .
Bogart stars as private investigator Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946), an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel. Hired by a millionaire invalid general to stop an acquaintance of his wild and badly behaved daughter, Carmen, from blackmailing him. This is the beginning of Marlowe's rapid descent into the dark noir world of murder and extortion. .
There are countless examples where Marlowe has little power over the situation he has found himself in, or where he is de-masculinised or belittled by the other characters. One example of this is he inability to act when Geiger is shot. Marlowe is outside of the building and cannot see or chase the murderer. Similarly, his masculine strength is called into question when Carmen announces that he is "too short" to be a private investigator. .
However, Marlowe's power and control over the noir world he is in grows as his investigation develops. For example, when he is outside Brody's house, Marlowe has progressed from being relatively useless as in the earlier scene where Geiger is killed. He is ready for this event and for the first time in the film is in a position of power over the other characters. This allows him to assert his authority over the criminals who until now have had power over him. .
Another element of the film that calls Marlowe's masculinity into question is the underlying theme of homosexuality, seen in the male relationships (both past and present) within the plot.