September 16th, 2011: The Big Sleep (1946)

Cast and Crew: Howard Hawks (Director); William Faulkner (Screenplay Co-Writer); Jack L. Warner (Executive Producer); Max Steiner (Score); Dorothy Malone, Bob Steele, Elijah Cook Jr.

What It’s About: General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) hires private detective Philip  Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) to handle a blackmail scheme against his daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). The case isn’t as simple as it first appears (are they ever?), drawing Marlowe into a tangled web of deceptions involving Sternwood’s other daughter, Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall), a missing former bootlegger and Irish revolutionary, gamblers, gangsters, pornographers, blackmailers and killers.

Why Watch it Today?: Actress Lauren Bacall was born today in 1924.  Her first screen role was in To Have and Have Not opposite future husband Humphrey Bogart. At just twenty years old, Bacall held her own (and then some).   To Have and Have Not is blessed with the first pairing of one of the screen’s great couples (not to mention Walter Brennan in a beloved supporting role as Bogie’s alcoholic partner), my favorite of their films is The Big Sleep.

Shot the same year as To Have and Have Not, Warner Brothers shelved The Big Sleep only releasing it two years later after trimming some expository scenes, and adding and re-shooting scenes between Bogart and Bacall.  The changes shifted the focus towards romance and away from an already dense crime thriller, making its central mystery nearly incomprehensible.  You won’t mind not knowing exactly who committed one of the murders, thanks to the beautiful Noir cinematography  full of atmospheric shadows and fog, the cutting dialog Marlowe uses as well as a gun or fist, and a cast of memorable villains and stooges.  The added scenes, full of innuendo laden, flirtatious verbal sparring between Bogart and Bacall bring enough heat to make one wonder how they got by the Hayes office.

Where to Get It: Netflix (Rental), Watch online at iTunes and Vudu, Libraries

Bacall’s classic musical number:

The trailer (why can’t Bogart come by my library for recommendations for his latest movie?)

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