Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Big Sleep (film)

The Big Sleep is a classic film based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, directed and produced by Howard Hawks, and starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, a private detective. It also starred Lauren Bacall, who was married to Bogart by the time this film was released. Several other actors with smaller roles were: Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Regis Toomey, and Elisha Cook Jr.

I have a hard time reviewing a film that I have watched many, many times. I have always liked films of this era and Bogart and Bacall are among my favorite actors, so I always get a lot of pleasure out of watching this movie. The story is set in Los Angeles, and there is murder, blackmail, sex, homosexuality, drugs, and pornography.

Philip Marlowe is working for a wealthy man, General Sternwood, with two beautiful daughters, and he can buy just about anything he wants. Most of the people in the story are corrupt. It is the story of a moral man working in a corrupt society.

The plot of the movie is just as complex as the plot of the book. Maybe more complex. But like the book, the movie is more about the characters and the setting, and doesn't have to make a lot of sense.  A lot of the dialogue sounds like it is straight out of the book.  The plot of the movie sticks fairly close to the plot of the book, but some characters are different. The oldest daughter of General Sternwood is played by Lauren Bacall, and she has a much greater role in the movie. Other than that, I won't go into details. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I don't want to spoil it for you.


This film was completed in 1944 but not released until 1946. The release of the film was initially delayed because the war was ending and Warner Brothers wanted to get films related to the war out before the end of the war. There were also concerns related to the scenes shot with Lauren Bacall in the early version. Since the film had been delayed already, her agent lobbied for Howard Hawks to re-shoot some scenes to enhance her role.

The DVD version I watched had both the 1946 theatrical version of film and the original pre-release version. I have not watched the original version, and don't know if I want to. The disc also includes a short documentary with Robert Gitt of UCLA, who provided the information on the differences between the two versions of the movie, along with other background on the movie.

The screenwriters for the film are William Faulkner, Jules Furthman, and Leigh Brackett. William Faulkner is very well known for his novels and short stories and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Jules Furthman wrote screenplays for many, many other films, including  Mutiny on the Bounty, Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not, and Rio Bravo. But the most interesting story is that Howard Hawks hired Leigh Brackett based on the dialogue in her first novel, No Good from a Corpse, and, based on her name, he thought she was a man. Leigh Brackett is well known for writing many science fiction novels and short stories, and wrote a few other mystery novels. In the late 50s and early 60s, she wrote screenplays for several other Howard Hawks films. Robert Altman also hired her to write the screenplay for The Long Goodbye (1973), based on another Raymond Chandler book.

This is the third movie I have watched and reported on for the Book to Movie Challenge 2013, hosted by Doing Dewey.

25 comments:

  1. Good choice and review, Tracy. Of course, I've neither read the book nor seen the film. I'm planning to read a few novels by Chandler. I've seen Bogart in just one or two films including "Casablanca" so I don't really know him as an actor; ditto for Lauren Bacall who is something of a cult figure in blogosphere.

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    1. Thanks, Prashant. Casablanca has always been one of my favorite movies, I cannot count how many times I have watched it. But not in the last few years. We need to watch it again.

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  2. Tracy - Prashant is right; this is an excellent choice! And I've always liked that Bogart/Bacall magic. They did so well together on screen. Thanks too for providing the background on the film; it's always interesting to know 'the story behind the story.'

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    1. Margot, I am glad you liked the background on the movie. It had an interesting history. I think the only Bogart / Bacall movie I have not seen is Dark Passage and I will try to remedy that in 2014.

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  3. I've seen the film umpteen times but as a big Bogart and Bacall fan I'm always happy to watch it again, it's so stylish. Thanks for the background on it. I loved Bacall's book By Myself (1978) well worth reading if you're a fan.

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    1. Katrina, I will have to look for a copy of that book. Thanks for mentioning it.

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  4. Love Bogart but have never seen this movie. Need to rectify that soon. Didn't know William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay. Some interesting notes on the film, thanks Tracy! Side Note: I love watching Sabrina (the original).

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    1. Keishon, you should definitely watch this movie if you like Bogart. I don't think I have ever seen Sabrina and I don't know why. There are plenty of his films I have missed (earlier ones or gangster films) but Sabrina is my type of film ...

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    2. Oh you'll love Sabrina! Bogart plays a straight-laced business man who falls in love with the chauffer's daughter, Audrey Hepburn. Really great film! A bit funny as well. I am going to re-watch it tonight. Talking about it has me wanting to watch it again.

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  5. I haven't seen much of Bogart either. In fact, I cannot remember any other film than The Maltese Falcon. Reading your review makes me want to re-read the book and watch the movie.

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    1. Neer, the Maltese Falcon (movie) is very good also. I hope to read that book in 2014 and re-watch the movie.

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  6. No to both book and film, I've never read/watched either. I will try and keep my eyes out for it, should it appear on the small screen over here. TBH, I can't think of anything of Bogart's I may have seen other than Angels With Dirty Faces with Cagney.

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    1. Col, it has been a while since I have seen any of the gangster films, although we have a box of them. I like Cagney a lot too, in just about anything, but especially when he tap dances.

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  7. I liked this film and I love the Bogart/Bacall team. They have so much chemistry together.
    But I still don't know what the resolution of the story is, and others have said they can't figure it out from the book either.
    Dark Passage is great! It's all about the chemistry between these two. And the plot is interesting, too.
    I could watch the four movies staring Bogart and Bacall over and over again.
    And Key Largo is great, too. Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart together create a dynamic conflict. It's an exciting movie, with a great cast.

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    1. Kathy, you are making me want to see them all soon. I wanted to wait until I have a copy of the book first, before I watch Dark Passage, but maybe I will go ahead and watch it sooner. And it has been a while since we watched the other two Bogart and Bacall films.

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  8. Great to read your film review at last TracyK (sorry I'm a bit late to the party - one hell of a week ...). The pre-release version of the DVD is worth seeing if sometimes a bit pedestrian - it has a long section in the middle where Marlowe talks to the DA and where most of the plot gets laid out - they probably did well to cut it but it's worth seeing just to figure out who did what! It's a shame they changed the murderer from the book and this is about the only thing that the 1978 Robert Mitchum version gets any plus points compared with this one - oddly enough, one of my favourite scenes, taken but expanded from the novel, is the book shop sequence with a young and dark-haired Dorothy Malone - I love the racy intimacy of it, which is quite underplayed compared with the additional Bogart and bacall sequences that were added to beef up her role. Loved the review TracyK - hope we get lots more movies from now on!

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    1. Sergio, I am behind on everything also. A bad couple of weeks at work. Maybe I will watch that other version sometime. I don't really care that much about figuring out all the murders... when I read explanations online, they just confuse me more. But seeing more scenes with the DA could be interesting. I love the scene with Dorothy Malone too. She looks like my mother when she was that age, although I am sure my mother was not that risque, ever.

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    2. Sergio, totally missed the part about more movie reviews. My husband always encourages me to review movies when appropriate and I probably will do more in the future. I especially want to do more books to film posts in 2014. Lots of plans, hope they materialize.

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  9. Don't forget "To Have and Have Not," in which Bogart and Bacall also star. That one is where the famous "whistle" scene got started. "You do know how to whistle, don't you? "Just put your lips together and blow."

    "Dark Passage" is a visual treat, not just a good story with a great cast. There are interesting photographic aspects to it, which would make it different from a book.

    This post is making me want to see all four movies again. I think about every two years is a good interval.

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    1. "William Faulkner ...won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. "

      He also won the Nobel Prize for Literature, which counts for more outside the USA.
      It's worth watching the pre-release version- it gives a better explanation of the plot, though there are a couple of gaps, like who did kill...?

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    2. Kathy, I have been thinking about re-watching To Have and Have Not and Key Largo. It has been a few years. Lots of good viewing ahead.

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  10. I know this is heresy but I've always preferred the films to the books. I remember watching them all as a teenager.

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    1. Sarah, the only other movie I have seen is The Long Goodbye with Elliott Gould. Which I liked a lot. I want to see other movie adaptations for this series. I haven't read any further books, so I don't know yet which I prefer. With The Big Sleep, I love both.

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  11. I have seen this film several times, like you, and like you I love it. But I didn't know all the background you give, very interested to know there is a another version, I'd never heard that. Now I want to watch the film again - a great way to spend a couple of hours.

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    1. Moira, I owe most of the things I learn about films to my husband. We enjoy the same types of films, but he is the one who watches the credits and delves into more information.

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