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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Big Sleep can be found here.
Los Angeles Private Investigator Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is hired by invalid millionaire, General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), because Sternwood is being, as he puts it, 'blackmailed' by book dealer A.G. Geiger (Theodore von Eltz) to the tune of $5,000 to cover gambling debts incurred by his younger daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). However, Sternwood's older daughter, Mrs Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall), believes that her father really wants Marlowe to locate Sean Regan, a favored employee who disappeared a month ago. As Marlowe delves deeper and deeper into investigating Geiger, he becomes more and more interested in Regan to the point of becoming obsessed with figuring out what happened to him, a move that gets him into water deeper than he ever could have imagined.
The Big Sleep (1939) is a pulp crime novel written by American-born author Raymond Chandler. It is the first novel to feature Chandler's famous detective, Philip Marlowe. The novel was adapted for the movie by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. A remake, also titled The Big Sleep, was released in 1978.
The big sleep is death. In the closing passage of the novel, Marlowe reflects on death and asks himself: "What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that ..."
It's mentioned only that Mr Rutledge was married to Vivian but that it didn't work out. Whether they were divorced or he was deceased is not mentioned. In the novel, there was no Mr Rutledge...Vivian was married to Rusty Regan, the guy who disappeared. In order to feature Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (husband and wife in real life) together romantically, it was necessary to separate the Rusty Regan character into separate individuals. Thanks to the Hays Code, which was in effect when this movie was filmed, Marlowe would not have otherwise been allowed to get involved with a married woman.
The Hays code prevented the movie from including too many details, so you have to go to the novel to find the answer to that question. Geiger's bookstore didn't sell rare books and first editions, as it was advertized in the window. It was a front for illegal pornography.
Marlowe and Vivian drive back to Geiger's house where Marlowe calls Eddie Mars (John Ridgely) pretending to be in Realito and agrees to meet him at Geiger's house in 40 minutes. Marlowe and Vivian hide while waiting for Mars to show. He arrives 10 minutes later, posting four gunmen outside. Thinking Marlowe won't be there for a half hour, Mars is just about to cut the phone lines when Marlowe steps out from behind a curtain. Holding Mars at gunpoint, Marlowe gets him to tell the whole story of how Carmen killed Regan while she was high of drugs because Regan didn't pay attention to her and liked Mars' wife better. Mars then hid the body and started to blackmail Vivian over it. When Mars threatens Marlowe with his gunmen, Marlowe retaliates by firing off three shots that just miss Mars, causing him to run outside. Yelling, 'Don't shoot...it's me!' Mars is gunned down by his own men. Marlowe then calls his friend, Inspector Bernie Ohls (Regis Toomey), and tells him that Mars killed Regan and that he should send the police to Geiger's house. In the final scene, Marlowe promises Vivian that he will cover for Carmen, but she is going to have to get help for her sister. 'You've forgotten one thing,' Vivian says. 'What's wrong with you?' Marlowe asks. 'Nothing you can't fix,' she replies. As they look into each others' eyes, sirens can be heard arriving at the house.
A.G. Geiger was shot by Owen Taylor (Dan Wallace), the Sternwood's chauffeur because Taylor was sweet on Carmen and didn't like what Geiger was doing to her. Joe Brody (Louis Jean Heydt) was shot by Geiger's shadow, Carol Lundgren (Tommy Rafferty), because he believed Brody shot Geiger. Harry Jones (Elisha Cook Jr.) was poisoned by Canino, one of Eddie Mars' thugs, in order to find out where Agnes Lowzier (Sonia Darrin) was holed up with the photos of Carmen. Canino was shot by Marlowe because Canino tried to kill him. Eddie Mars was killed by his own boys, thinking that he was Marlowe.
Joe Brody claims to have 'sapped' Owen Taylor in order to get the photos of Carmen but claims that he left him in his car on the side of the road. Neither the movie nor the book tells who killed him and dumped the car in the water. It's rumored that even author Raymond Chandler had no idea when that question was put to him by the screenwriters. Those who have seen the movie and/or read the book are split over it being (1) Brody, (2) Lundgren, or (3) the chauffeur killing himself.
Rumor had it that Regan ran off with Eddie Mars' wife, but Mona Mars (Peggy Knudsen) is found hiding out at an auto body repair shop near Realito. Vivian tried to deter Marlowe from poking around into Regan's whereabouts by telling him that Regan was in an accident in Mexico and that she was on her way there, but she also turns up at the body shop. She later claims that she killed him, but Marlowe doesn't believe her. In actuality, Carmen shot Regan.
Those who have both seen the movie and read the book say that the movie was confusing to them. Certain things were changed for the movie. For example, the book has several scenes with nudity, which were changed/removed for the film. In the book, Geiger and Carol are homosexual lovers. This is not mentioned in the movie. Vivian is estranged from husband Rusty Regan in the book, and he is the one who had supposedly ran off with Mars' wife. In the movie, this character is broken into two separate individuals. Rutledge is the estranged husband, and Regan (now with the first name Sean) is the fellow that was friendly with General Sternwood and then suddenly disappeared. Finally, the film ends with a verbal explanation of who actually killed Regan. The book concludes with a bizarre scene involving Marlowe giving Carmen shooting lessons and then Marlowe telling Vivian to send her sister off.
Even though the movie was finished by January 1945 the movie was not shown in theatres before August 1946. One of the reasons were extensive re-shoots with Bogart and Bacall, forced by Bacall's agent Charles K. Feldman in order to save her career after her bad performance in Confidential Agent. Therefore several scenes of The Big Sleep were replaced by new ones focusing on Bogart and Bacall in order to profit from their on-screen chemistry and the underlying sexual tension of their relationship. Because of this several actors were cut out of the movie or got replaced by other for the re-shoots. Even though there's no big difference in the running time, seven of the twelve reels the movie exists of were altered, plot elements were left out and so on. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.
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