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The Big Sleep (1946)

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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.

Director:

Howard Hawks

Writers:

William Faulkner (screen play), Leigh Brackett (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Humphrey Bogart ... Philip Marlowe
Lauren Bacall ... Vivian Rutledge
John Ridgely ... Eddie Mars
Martha Vickers ... Carmen Sternwood
Dorothy Malone ... Acme Book Shop Proprietress
Peggy Knudsen ... Mona Mars
Regis Toomey ... Chief Inspector Bernie Ohls
Charles Waldron Charles Waldron ... General Sternwood
Charles D. Brown Charles D. Brown ... Norris - the Butler
Bob Steele ... Lash Canino
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Harry Jones
Louis Jean Heydt ... Joe Brody
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Storyline

The Big Sleep is the story of private investigator Philip Marlowe, who is hired by a wealthy general to find out and stop his youngest daughter Carmen from being blackmailed about her gambling debts. Almost immediately, Marlowe finds himself deep within a web of love triangles, blackmail, murder, gambling, and organized crime. With the help of the General's eldest daughter Vivian, Marlowe skillfully plots to free the family from this web and trap Eddie, the main man behind much of this mischief, to meet his end at the hands of his own henchmen. Written by Alec

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

TEEMING WITH STAR-TEAM EXCITEMENT! (re-release print ad - all caps) See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 August 1946 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Al borde del abismo See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$250,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (pre-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Marlowe asked an 1860 edition of Ben Hur at Geiger's rare book store. Lew Wallace didn't get it published until 1880. See more »

Goofs

When Marlowe returns to his apartment after taking Carmen home from Geiger's house, there is a tight shot of his (Marlowe's) front door, on which there is a bracket holding a card that reads "Philip Marlowe - Private Investigator" and "206" in large numbers. When he opens the door to the apartment and the shot changes to a wide one, the number has disappeared. See more »

Quotes

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

Crazy Credits

During the opening credits, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are seen in silhouette, placing cigarettes in an ashtray. At the end, two cigarettes are in an ashtray. See more »


Soundtracks

And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
(uncredited)
Music by Stan Kenton and Charles Lawrence
Lyrics by Joe Greene
Played by a band at the casino and sung by Lauren Bacall and patrons
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
My head's still spinning
3 September 1999 | by Danimal-7See all my reviews

THE BIG SLEEP is one of the more entertaining private eye movies I have seen. A dying old man has two beautiful, uncontrollable daughters: Vivien (Lauren Bacall), and Carmen (Martha Vickers). Carmen is being blackmailed, and her father hires P.I. Christopher Marlowe (the beloved Humphrey Bogart) to get the blackmailer off her back. But Marlowe finds that somebody else has done this job for him: the blackmailer is murdered almost under his nose. And as he puts it, "That didn't stop things. That just starts 'em."

I have not read Raymond Chandler's novel, on which this movie was based, but those who have say the title refers to death. That is never explained in the movie. Howard Hawks packs so much plot into 114 minutes of footage that the movie feels like it's bursting at the seams. The story is not incomprehensible as some would have it; while there are many improbable coincidences, there is no element I can point to and say "That couldn't have happened." (Although I'm still not quite sure how Carmen got into Marlowe's apartment). True, the plot really is very hard to follow, and Marlowe's periodic explanations of events, without which the movie would indeed be nonsensical, smack more of inspired guesswork than logical deduction. But the furious pace at which the plot unfolds lends more excitement to the movie than nine out of ten of today's lazily plotted would-be thrillers.

THE BIG SLEEP's greatest strength is its delightfully droll dialogue. When Chandler writes the novel and then Faulkner helps adapt it, you expect some verbal fireworks, and you sure do get them. "How do you like your brandy?" "In a glass." - "You're not very tall, are you?" "I try to be." - "I'm getting cuter every minute." - "Such a lot of guns around town, and so few brains." - "Is it any of your business?" "I could make it my business." "I could make your business mine." "You wouldn't like it. The pay's too small." - "She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up." Bogie and Bacall get two of the best exchanges; they have a horse-racing discussion where racy double-entendres are dripping like savory sauce off of every word, and they also get a truly hilarious telephone conversation where Marlowe convinces Vivien not to call the police.

But THE BIG SLEEP has a harder side that is also effective. It is shockingly violent for a movie produced under the stern eyes of the Hayes code censors. The movie is too unpredictable to generate much suspense (you can't dread something you don't know is going to happen), but the ending is one of the most intense, nailbiting scenes you'll ever see.

The 1940s were not a great era for film music, which makes Max Steiner's brooding score all the more impressive. The print I saw was very low-quality, so I can't judge the cinematography.

The acting is wonderful. Bogart gets to show his chops at one point by switching off the hard-boiled personality he developed for THE MALTESE FALCON and impersonating an antiquarian bookworm. Bacall radiates class whether she's at ease smoking in a cafe or outwitting a man holding her at gunpoint. Martha Vickers' Carmen strikes the perfect balance of appealing seductiveness and outright nastiness.

One final note: this movie is almost Bond-like in terms of the number of appallingly beautiful women Marlowe accidentally encounters, all of whom seem to have a burning desire for him. Even his taxi driver wants him. Dorothy Malone, whose character name we never learn, plays the sexiest book seller you will ever meet (and yes, she wears glasses; eat your heart out, Dorothy Parker!). Minus fifty points for credibility, plus a hundred points for entertainment. Regrettably, I cannot promise similar thrills for the female audience; it just kind of depends on how you like Men In Suits.

Rating: ***1/2 out of ****.


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