Favorite things about… The Big Sleep

(Screen capture by TMP)

The favorite film:
The Big Sleep, a 1946 noir mystery marking the second on-screen pairing of The Most Beautiful Couple Ever*, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Howard Hawks directs, and the film is based on a novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler.

*I have awarded them this title (for obvious reasons), just as I’ve awarded Cary Grant the title of The Most Beautiful Man Ever.

The synopsis:
Philip Marlowe is a private detective hired by an ill, very wealthy man named General Sternwood to solve many of the family’s problems. All of the current drama seems to be stemming from the disappearance of one of the General’s favorite employees.

Sternwood’s two daughters, Carmen and Vivian, are wrapped up in the drama through their own corrupt associations and less-than-respectable hobbies. As Marlowe works to track down all of the loose ends of the complicated case, he finds himself falling for the dangerous Vivian and becoming deeply engulfed in the world of crime.

(Screen capture by TMP)

The cast:
Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe
Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge
Martha Vickers as Carmen Sternwood
Charles Waldron as General Sternwood
John Ridgely as Eddie Mars
Louis Jean Heydt as Joe Brody

Fun facts:

  • Famed novelist William Faulkner contributed to the screenplay. He also worked on the screenplay for Bogie and Baby’s first film together, To Have and Have Not (1944).
  • Howard Hawks bought the rights to the novel for only $5,000, adding the rest of the money Jack Warner had given him into his own pocketbook.
  • An earlier cut of the film was shown to American troops overseas in 1945. Additional scenes were shot with Bogie and Baby before the theatrical release of the film in order to try to replicate the success of To Have and Have Not.
  • Vivian and Carmen both make jokes about Marlowe’s height early on in the film. Bogart was a shorter-than-average leading man, and trick photography or shoe lifts often had to be used to make him look taller than his lead actresses.
  • Stickers for the rationing of gasoline can be seen on many of the cars in the film.
  • A remake of the film was released in 1978 starring Robert Mitchum, Joan Collins and Jimmy Stewart.
  • Steve Martin’s fantastic noir parody Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) utilizes scenes from this film, among others (including Sorry, Wrong Number; Hitchcock’s Notorious and Suspicion; Bogart’s In a Lonely Place; Bogart and Bacall’s Dark Passage; and The Killers)

Favorite things:

  • Marlowe sweating out half of his body’s water content while the General sits wrapped up in blankets
  • General Sternwood describing his daughters as corrupt fools
  • The supreme wit and snark of Marlowe and Vivian’s first meeting
  • Bogie and Baby’s chemistry – they kill me!
  • My two favorite things together on screen: Bogart and bookstores!
  • Bogie’s exaggerated change of personality when he visits Geiger’s book shop
(Screen capture by TMP)
  • The sassy ACME bookstore clerk (portrayed by Dorothy Malone) shamelessly flirting with Marlowe and closing down the store to spend “quality time” with him
  • Bogie’s fence-hopping skills at Geiger’s house
  • This awesome hidden camera:
(Screen capture by TMP)
  • Martha Vickers’ portrayal of Carmen’s “high as a kite” phase
  • Beautiful set design and costuming
  • Marlowe and Vivian’s call hilarious call to the police after he takes the phone from her
  • The sarcastic, droll dialogue (and the perfect delivery of it)
  • Vivian’s… mosquito net? Fencing mask? Veil?:
(Screen capture by TMP)
  • Lauren Bacall’s song:
  • Vivian’s unclear intentions throughout the majority of the film – Is she really on Marlowe’s side?
  • This film has everything I could possibly want in a hard-boiled mystery. Suspense! Drama! Romance! A full, complex plot! It’s the perfect private eye film, and there isn’t a single dull moment.
  • Quotes:
    • Carmen: “You’re not very tall, are you?”
    • Carmen: “You’re making fun of me.”
      Marlowe: “Uh-huh.”
      Carmen: “You’re cute.”
    • Vivian: “I’m sure I don’t care what you say, Mr. Marlowe.”
    • Marlowe: “You do sell books, hmmm?”
    • Vivian: “You like to play games, don’t you?”
    • Marlowe: “Such a lot of guns in town and so few brains.”
    • Marlowe: “I like brandy.”
      Vivian: “I have lots of it.”
    • Vivian: “I’m not used to being hijacked. Give me a little time.”
    • Vivian: “I like that. I’d like more. [Kisses Marlowe] That’s even better.”
      Marlowe: “Alright, now that’s settled. What has Eddie Mars got on you?”
      Vivian: “So that’s the way it is.”
      Marlowe: “Yeah, that’s the way it is. Kissing is alright, it’s nice. I’d like to do more of it. But first I want to find out what Eddie Mars has on you.”
    • Marlowe: “I don’t suppose there’s a gun around here.”
    • Vivian: “I don’t mind, as long as you’re around.”
    • Vivian: “I guess I’m in love with you.”
    • Marlowe: “What’s wrong with you?”
      Vivian: “Nothing you can’t fix.”

    (Screen capture by TMP)

9 thoughts on “Favorite things about… The Big Sleep

    1. There is quite a bit to digest. That aspect makes it even more enjoyable to me. The cast would be enough to keep me coming back to it even if the plot was awfully thin, but I love that I can watch it endlessly and still pick up on something new with each viewing. Thanks for reading! :)

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  1. One of my favorite noir detective dramas…so many cool things going on, especially with Bogart and his tough dialogue. Have you ever seen that first version of the film, that has less interaction between Bogart and Bacall, and a little more story? Not too bad, actually.

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    1. I plan on watching it very soon. Both versions are included on the edition of the DVD that I own. I thought of watching them back to back when I rewatched the theatrical version for this post, but I didn’t have enough time. I would actually like to do a comparison series eventually since I also have alternate versions of a few other films on DVD, like Strangers on a Train.

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  2. I’ve got both of those ‘two version’ sets as well; the alternate version of ‘Strangers on a Train’ has some minor but interesting differences, and is definitely worth checking out. I’d love to hear what you think about that early release for ‘The Big Sleep’…perhaps an article titled “My Favorite Things About the OTHER Big Sleep” might be on the horizon?

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