THE BIG SLEEP (1946) B/W 114m dir: Howard Hawks
w/Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Louis Jean Heydt, Elisha Cook Jr., Regis Toomey, Dorothy Malone, Sonia Darrin, Bob Steele, Martha Vickers, Tom Rafferty, Peggy Knudsen, Charles Waldron, Theodore von Eltz
A near-masterpiece, full of corruption, annihilation, and wit. The plot is impossible to follow ---even scripter William Faulkner (along with Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett) had problems adapting Raymond Chandler's novel --- but the atmosphere is like a chronic hangover.
From Variety's review of the film: "Brittle Chandler characters have been transferred to the screen with punch by Howard Hawks's production and direction, providing full load of rough, tense action most of the way.
"Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian, Marlowe's chief romantic interest, make a smooth team to get over the amatory play and action in the script. Hawks has given story a staccato pace in the development, using long stretches of dialogless action and then whipping in fast talk between characters. This helps to punch home high spots of suspense, particularly in latter half of picture.
"Chandler plot deals with adventures of Bogart when he takes on a case for the eccentric Sternwood family. There are six deaths to please whodunit fans, plenty of lusty action, both romantic and physical, as Bogart matches wits with dealers in sex literature, blackmail, gambling and murder. Before he closes his case, he has dodged sudden death, been unmercifully beaten, threatened, fought off mad advances of one of the Sternwood females, and fallen in love with another.
"Some good scenes are tossed to others in the cast. Dorothy Malone, a bookshop proprietress, has her big moment in a sequence shot with sex implications as she goes on the make for Bogart."
From The Movie Guide: "The most convoluted of the great noir films, based on the first yarn written by Raymond Chandler. THE BIG SLEEP comes magically alive through Hawks's careful direction and Bogart's persona, which is twin to his character of Philip Marlowe. ...
"One of the greatest detective films to come out of Hollywood, THE BIG SLEEP is perhaps most notorious for its famous unsolved murder --- that of the Sternwood chauffeur. The unwieldy plot ... kept Hawks busy trying to figure out the puzzle. When Hawks called Chandler to ask the killer's identity, the writer reportedly stated: 'How should I know. You figure it out,' and hung up. It was on the set of THE BIG SLEEP that the Bogart and Bacall love-team image was cemented, although their first sizzling union on screen was in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. Their dazzling star personas, combined with the poetry of both Chandler's and Faulkner's words and Hawks's direction, give THE BIG SLEEP some of the most sexually electric dialogue ever to hit the screen."