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The Big Sleep

May 11, 2012

by John Farr

John Farr explains why The Big Sleep could be his favorite of the four Bogart-Bacall films.


The Big Sleep (1946)

What It’s About:
Private investigator Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) gets tangled in a seedy web of murder and vice when he’s hired by wealthy scion General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) to investigate a pornographer with incriminating photos of his daughter, Carmen (Martha Vickers). Marlowe finds the man dead, but this is only the beginning, as plot twists-and bodies- pile up fast. At first, the detective is intrigued by the general’s other daughter, the ravishing Vivian (Lauren Bacall), but keeps her at a safe distance. Events will soon conspire to bring them closer together.

Why I Love It:
Scripted by William Faulkner from Raymond Chandler’s complex detective novel, Howard Hawks’s “The Big Sleep” is a Hollywood whodunit of the highest order. Bogart famously cemented his trench-coated, tough-guy persona tackling the role of Chandler’s shamus protagonist, Philip Marlowe, co-starring alongside soon-to-be wife Bacall. “Sleep” piles up so many dense subplots that ultimately you may lose track of who killed whom- apparently, even Chandler lost track of one culprit. Still, that Bogart-Bacall wattage and Hawks’s expert direction are such that you don’t much care.

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