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 <email@example.com>
In the public library, a close-up reveals Marlowe is copying information out of a book opened to new chapter, with a large margin at top and a chapter heading in bold face type. In the long shot a second later, the book is opened to random page of dense text. See more »
Many fans of this classic film are drawn to it because of Bogie and Bacall, who do indeed make a deft acting duo. Here, Bogie plays Philip Marlowe, the tough talking, street savvy PI, who has his roots in the crime novels of writer Raymond Chandler. Bacall plays Vivian Sternwood, the adult daughter of a wealthy man. Vivian is just as tough and cagey as Marlowe. And she has a younger sister named Carmen, who seems to have fallen in with a bad crowd. It's up to Marlowe to investigate, and to save the Sternwood family from financial ruin. "The Big Sleep" is a story of blackmail, murder, multiple motives, lies, and all manner of general mayhem.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are certainly persuasive in their roles. I also like the script's snappy dialogue. For example, in a conversation with General Sternwood, Marlowe responds: "Hmm". Sternwood follows up: "What does that mean?" To which Marlowe fires back: "It means, hmm". Marvelous.
But the film's plot is an incoherent mess. It is hard to follow, disjointed, and has obvious lapses. Further, secondary characters (Geiger, Brody, Mars, et.al.), and their interrelationships, are poorly defined. To some extent that vagueness and lack of precision are fairly common in 1940's pulp detective stories.
The best approach to "The Big Sleep" is to engulf the relationship between Marlowe and Vivian, marvel at the acting of Bogie and Bacall, enjoy the witty dialogue, and ignore the discombobulated plot.
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