A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
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
Whether it was wish fulfilment or his desire to increase the film's sexual tension, Howard Hawks decided that every woman in the film would find Marlowe irresistible and try to seduce him. See more »
When Vivian is telling Marlowe the cover story for Carmen for the night before, her mouth does not match what she's saying. This mismatch is because the movie was re-edited after Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall became a popular team; To Have and Have Not which brought them to stardom was released after The Big Sleep was filmed but before it was released. Scenes were re-shot, some new scenes were added and others dropped. The sequence was also changed to accommodate some of the new edits. The audio/visual mismatch is because the scene was kept but minor dialog had to be changed to make the re-sequencing track properly. See more »
You know what he'll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.
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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 »
Both the preview version and the theatrical release are available on DVD. The running times of each are similar but there are actually over 20m of differences between the two versions - the impact of the changes is to beef up the Bogart/Bacall romance angle and make it much sexier. The preview version comes across as much duller than the better-known theatrical release print which has been made a genuine classic by the re-shooting and re-editing. The major differences are:
preview version has extra footage of Bogart searching Geiger's house where he has found Bacall's sister in a drugged state. This doesn't reveal any new information and was deleted for pacing reasons in the theatrical print.
preview version has different footage when Bogart takes the drugged sister back to her mansion. Theatrical print removes some of this and replaces it with a new scene set in Bacall's bedroom in which she and Bogie exchange some great, racy dialogue. This new scene considerably alters the tone of the film.
preview version has a scene in which Bacall visits Bogie's office wearing a veil and they talk a lot. Bacall's agent particularly objected to this veil. The theatrical print removes the scene entirely and replaces it with a new one with the couple set in a restaurant which has much sexier dialogue and innuendo (to do with racehorses among other things).
the preview version has a long-ish dialogue scene in the DA's office which explains a lot of the plot details although it goes on too long and slows the film's pace. Scene has been removed entirely from the theatrical print.
the theatrical print has an additional scene in which Bacall's psycho sister tries to seduce Bogie in his apartment. He rebuffs her. This scene was in the original novel and is important in explaining who really killed the chauffeur. In the preview print, the absence of this scene makes it unclear why Bogie knows that the sister is a psychopath at the finale.
the scene in which Bogie is tied up with Bacall and Eddie Mars' wife was completely re-shot for the theatrical release with a different actress playing Mars' wife. The theatrical release edit emphasizes the Bacall/Bogie pairing more and has additional close-ups of Bacall.
Classic private eye tale with Bogart and Bacall in fine form
This classic of American cinema, actually made during the war and released in 1946, got a whole nation of young men affecting Bogey mannerisms, raising their eyebrows or showing their teeth while grimacing, and especially pulling on their earlobes while deep in thought, a smoking cigarette dangling between their lips. It was the genius of Howard Hawks, who directed, to do everything possible to make Humphrey Bogart a matinée idol, including having Lauren Bacall slump down in the car seat so as not to tower over him. With this movie a new kind of cinematic hero was created, the existential PI, a seemingly ordinary looking guy gifted with street smarts and easy courage, admired by men, and adored by women.
Hawks fashioned this, part of the Bogart legend, with a noire script penned by William Faulkner, et al., adapted from Raymond Chandler's first novel, that sparkled with spiffy lines, intriguing characters, danger and a not entirely serious attention to plot detail. Hawks surrounded Bogey with admiring dames, beginning with the sexy Martha Vickers who tries to jump into his lap while he's still standing (as Marlowe tells General Sternwood), and ending with the incomparable Lauren Bacall, looking beguiling, beautiful and mysteriously seductive. In fact, every female in the cast wants to get her hands on Bogey, including a quick and easy Dorothy Malone, bored in her specs while clerking at a book store. Hawks also employed some very fine character actors, most notably Elisa Cook Jr., and Bob Steele, the former as always, the little guy crook, (Harry Jones), and the latter, as often seen in westerns, the mindless heavy with a gun (Canino). Charles Waldron played the world-weary general and Charles D. Brown was the butler.
I was reminded somehow of the old Charlie Chan movies with the dark, mysterious, ornately-decorated interiors heavily carpeted and studded with ethnic statuettes, especially the house on Laverne Terrace that Bogey keeps coming back to, and the glass-paned doors and glass-separated cubicals of his office and others. The atmospheric L.A. created here has been much admired and imitated, cf., Chinatown (1974) and L.A. Confidential (1997), two very superior movies that continued the tradition.
In comparing this to the book, I have to say it's a little on the white-washed side, and not as clearly drawn--'confused' some have said. Of course liberties were taken with Chandler's novel to make it romantic. Chandler's novel emphasizes cynicism, and romance takes a back seat to manliness and loyalty to the client. An especially striking difference is in the character of General Sternwood's younger daughter, Carmen. She is vividly drawn in the book as something of monster, a degenerate sex kitten who would try and do just about anything. She is twice encountered butt naked by Marlowe, once in his bed. Being the sterling guy he is, he turns her away. (Right. I could do that.) Another difference is in all the sleazy details about the low-life underworld of Los Angeles that are omitted or glossed over in the film, including Geiger's homosexuality and his gay house guest, Carol Lundgren. (Of course there was a code in those days.) Bacall's character in the movie is actually a fusion of Vivian and Mona Mars from the book, made nice for movie fans. In the book, Marlowe kisses Vivian, but turns down her invitation for more intimate contact. In the movie, of course, there is no way Bogart is going to say 'no' to Bacall. In the book Marlowe seems to prefer whiskey to women.
Most of the sharp dialogue comes right from Chandler's novel, including Bogart's grinning line, 'Such a lot of guns around town, and so few brains.' Interesting is the little joke on Bogart in the opening scene. In the novel, Chandler's hero is greeted by the purring Carmen with the words, 'Tall, aren't you?' Well, the one thing Bogey ain't is tall, and so in the movie Carmen says, 'You're not very tall, are you?' Bogart comes back with, 'I try to be.' In the novel, Marlowe says, 'I didn't mean to be.'
By the way, the film features Bacall singing a forties tune and looking mighty good doing it.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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