Summoned by the dying General Sternwood, Philip Marlowe is asked to deal with several problems that are troubling his family. Marlowe finds that each problem centers about the disappearance of Sternwood's favoured employee who has left with a mobster's wife. Each of the problems becomes a cover for something else as Marlowe probes. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Bogie is talking to Dorothy Malone in the Acme Bookstore "The Wire Cutters" by Mollie E. Moore Davis is visible in the background. See more »
When Marlowe enters the Sternwood home, bringing Carmen Sternwood home from Geiger's house, he is not wearing his trench coat. But, as he leaves, he is given the coat by Norris, the butler, and puts it on. See more »
"My, my, my, such a lot of guns around town and so few brains."
Starting out, I must advise that my review here is for the 1945 pre-release version of "The Big Sleep", which had quite a few scenes redone prior to it's release to general audiences in October 1946. With filming already completed by Spring of 1945, there were two main reasons for the year and a half delay; first, with World War II underway, Warner Brothers felt compelled to get it's war related films into theaters while they were still timely. Secondly, Producer/Director Howard Hawks was convinced he had to re-shoot some scenes involving Lauren Bacall, who was critically panned in her latest film, "Confidential Agent" with Charles Boyer. In the original print, Bacall is presented in a few scenes wearing a distracting veil, and it's her more glamorous side that the studio needed to capitalize on.
Much has been made of the complexity of the "The Big Sleep", and deservedly so. On my latest viewing, I took pen in hand to keep track of the characters and situations. That only helped so much. For example, Humprey Bogart's character, private detective Philip Marlowe is tailing rare book dealer Arthur Gwynne Geiger for his client General Sternwood; Geiger allegedly holds gambling debts involving a few thousand dollars on Sternwood's daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). Following Geiger's auto to his residence, Marlowe studies his surroundings, and then hears a woman's scream and gunshots, followed immediately by two cars careening out of the driveway. Entering the house, he discovers the lifeless body of Geiger, and a spaced out Carmen Sternwood. Out of this scenario are offered two, maybe three possibilities. First, General Sternwood's chauffeur Owen Taylor is implicated, as he had fallen in love with Carmen and wanted to defend her from blackmail. Secondly, a shady Geiger accomplice Joe Brody may have done it, OR may have chased the guilty Taylor from the crime scene either to retrieve some incriminating blackmail film or to remove him as a potential witness. OR, the spaced out Carmen could have killed Geiger herself, and although this wasn't offered as a possibility in the film, she WAS present, and may have been entirely coherent when the murder was committed.
And this is how the story proceeds. Even more characters are introduced to spin off the original plot, and Marlowe is off investigating the proprietor of a gambling house named Eddie Mars, Brody's accomplice Agnes Lozier, the salesgirl at the rare bookstore, and Harry Jones (Elisha Cook Jr.), a tail on Marlowe who gets rubbed out after setting up a meeting with Agnes that might provide more information to go on.
All of the intrigue aside, it's the chemistry once again between Bogey and by now, Mrs. Bogey, Lauren Bacall that propels this movie forward. Whether just sizing each other up at the beginning of the film, or as unwilling accomplices and possible lovers by film's end, it's the snappy banter and smoldering tension between the two that put the sizzle into this edgy noir thriller.
As if to prove how great an actor Bogart was, this film offers us a glimpse at his incredible range. Of course I'm referring to the bookstore scene in which Bogey portrays a nerdy client seeking information on a non existent rare book. With a mere upturn of his hat's brim and a cleverly positioned pair of glasses, Bogart completely transforms into an almost unrecognizable comic character who befuddles and infuriates the store's proprietress. He follows that up with a walk across the street, and a double entendre filled conversation with a disarmingly seductive Dorothy Malone in a scene that could have lingered into X-rated territory if not for the task at hand.
One could go on and on about "The Big Sleep", and others have, but to appreciate the film's mystery, darkness and noir complexity you'll have to view it. But don't try to solve the case, you won't want to hurt yourself.
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