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The Big Sleep (1946)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery  |  31 August 1946 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 60,705 users  
Reviews: 236 user | 126 critic

Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he's seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love.



(screen play), (screen play), 2 more credits »
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Title: The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946) on IMDb 8.1/10

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Complete credited cast:
John Ridgely ...
Peggy Knudsen ...
Charles Waldron ...
Charles D. Brown ...
Louis Jean Heydt ...


Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by old General Sternwood to stop a blackmail attempt concerning his youngest daughter Carmen. Marlowe tails the blackmailer Geiger to his house at Laverne Terrace. Suddenly he hears a shot and sees some men rushing out to their cars. He breaks into the house, and finds Carmel drugged in a chair, with Geiger's dead body at her feet. An empty camera proves that a photo has been taken of her and the corpse, probably intended for further blackmailing. A series of clues lead Marlowe to various persons involved in gambling. Wherever he finds them, he also finds Sternwood's oldest daughter, Vivian Rutledge, a divorced beauty. She and Marlowe fall in love with each other, although she continues double-crossing him. When Marlowe's investigations lead him to the casino owner Eddie Mars, the situation starts becoming very dangerous. Everyone, including the district attorney, advises Marlowe to stop the investigation, but he is stubborn. Eddie Mars has a ... Written by Maths Jesperson {}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The type of man she hated . . . was the type she wanted ! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

31 August 1946 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tote schlafen fest  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (pre-release)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Final film of Charles Waldron (Gen. Sternwood). He died before the film premiered. However, he appeared in three other 1946 releases that, despite opening earlier in the year than "The Big Sleep," were shot after it. James Stewart recreated the role in the 1978 remake in one of his last roles. Coincidentally, Waldron had played Stewart's father in Navy Blue and Gold (1937). See more »


When Marlowe goes to Geiger's house, in the foreground is the house's mailbox with "AG Geiger 460" visible on it. When Marlowe later calls his pal Bernie at the D.A.'s office, he gives the address as "7244 Laverne Terrace". See more »


Carmen Sternwood: You're cute.
Philip Marlowe: I'm getting cuter every minute.
See more »


Featured in Precious Images (1986) See more »


I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan
Music by Arthur Schwartz
Played when Vivian Rutledge pays off Marlowe over drinks
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

"My, my, my, such a lot of guns around town and so few brains."
28 November 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

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.

56 of 74 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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