The Big Sleep
Release year: 1946
Director: Howard Hawks
Screenwriter: William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman, Raymond Chandler (Novel)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Peggy Knudsen, Bob Steele
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #10, week 33 2014
General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) hires private detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) to investigate a case of possible blackmail involving his daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). Before the end he has witnessed several murders, taken some beatings, and might have found love.
To many people Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca, 1942) IS Raymond Chandler’s iconic detective Philip Marlowe even though he has only played the character once. This reflects the fact that his one portrayal of Marlowe is so iconic and successful that the two of them will be forever linked in our minds. Excellently scripted by acclaimed author William Faulkner and based on Raymond Chandler’s famous novel, The Big Sleep shows Bogart strutting across the stage speaking one-liners like a books of quotes. The Big Sleep is a very talkative movie, the characters’ ping-pong resembling the ra-ta-ta of a tommy gun, and the pace of the plot and action set at full throttle. If there’s one thing The Big Sleep isn’t it’s boring. The Big Sleep is a classic of the subgenre known as film noir, which includes such staples as: gritty and shadowy visuals, tough dialogue resembling that of its literary counterpart pulp fiction, femme fatales, and detectives of dubious moral and ethical character. You’ll find all of it here. Bogart perfectly walks the line of a man who is on one side decent and on the other seems to fit well into the criminal circles he investigates. Although the violence is mild in comparison to film violence today, there is plenty of corpses and bruises to fill the story with a sense of dread and an underlying agenda working against our detective. As you can tell from the trailer below, The Big Sleep was marketed as the big return of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953) who had previously worked together on To Have and Have Not (1944), and the chemistry between them is obvious, perhaps a reflection of their off-screen relationship. They are worth rewatching again and again, and while rewatching The Big Sleep you might take some time to figure out who actually kills whom and why, because it’s not as obvious as you might think. If you are completely unfamiliar with film noir this is an excellent place to start. Highly recommended to anyone who loves gritty crime movies!
According to author Raymond Chandler, Martha Vickers gave such a great performance as Carmen that she outshone Lauren Bacall, and so many of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.
Rumors persisted that Andy Williams dubbed Bacall’s singing voice, however, both the director and Bacall herself has confirmed that she did her own singing.
The movie was completed in January 1945, but did not open in theatres until 1946. However, it was shown to American servicemen overseas during WWII.