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USA 1946
Directed by
Howard Hawks
114 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Big Sleep, The (1946)

Widely regarded as the best example of the Warner Bros film noir style, The Big Sleep sees Bogey as Raymond Chandler's private eye, Philip Marlowe, trawling the human sewers of Los Angeles when he is called to the home of the very rich General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) whose good-time girl daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers) is being blackmailed. There he meets Carmen's older sister Vivian (Lauren Bacall) and sparks fly.

Scripted by Nobel Laureate William Faulkner but probably benefitting more from the additional contributions from Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman, and scored by Max Steiner, the story twists and turns and crackles with caustic dialogue. It is also a stand-out Bogey and Bacall pairing (although released in mid-1946, it was actually filmed mostly in the fall of 1944, about six months before they were married), building on the success of their inaugural appearance in To Have and Have Not (1944).

In 1997, the original 1945 pre-release version of the film was discovered. With an extra eighteen minutes it made the plot more comprehensible but did not include two of Bacall's re-shot scenes found only in the second version which Hawks introduced to maximize the gain from her real life relationship with Bogart - the second bedroom scene at the Sternwoods and the notorious nightclub scene with pointedly suggestive dialogue about horse-racing and saddles.

It was remade in 1978 by Michael Winner with Robert Mitchum in the lead and James Stewart as General Sternwood but its true heir is Polanski's Chinatown.




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