The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big SleepThe Big Sleep Poster
Directed by Howard Hawks
Warner Bros.

Repeat viewing
#189 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die


Vivian: Why did you have to go on?

Marlowe: Too many people told me to stop.

Movies have taken a back seat to life lately and when life rears its ugly head there is nobody better than Bogart for a little boost.  This is a fun but perplexing adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel.

Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is hired by wealthy General Sternwood to investigate a blackmail plot against his daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers).  Sternwood’s other daughter Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall) attempts to keep him off the case.  Not to be deterred, Marlowe comes across a series of murders and is lucky to escape with his own life.  With Elisha Cook, Jr. as a would-be informant.


The Big Sleep has a notoriously complicated plot, even for a film noir.  It is so complicated, in fact, that when writers William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett asked Chandler who killed a chauffeur in love with Carmen, even Chandler couldn’t figure it out.  I’m hazy on most of the story.  Despite the fantastic repartee between Bogart and Bacall, this detracts a bit from my enjoyment of the film.  Nevertheless, it is well worth seeing.  It is probably the only film in which Bogart plays a James Bond like sex symbol, with all the girls he meets swooning (see the second clip).


Clip – Dorothy Malone and Humphrey Bogart get to know each other in a bookstore

4 thoughts on “The Big Sleep (1946)

  1. Probably in the upper reaches of my top 10 films. I would hate to say how many times I have seen it. Of course, we don’t understand the plot…..the author didn’t understand it but so what. One of my favorite film quotes is in the movie……when Carmen first meets Marlow when he goes to meet her father……she says “You’re not very tall, are you” and he replies “I try to be”.
    They re-shot a bunch of this movie once it became apparent that the Bogart/Bacall pairing was made in heaven and her role was expanded. Everyone was perfectly case, even Bob Steele as Canino, the trigger happy killer who Bogie kills at the garage. I could go on and on and on…….I won’t. It is a classic, a true classic!!!!

  2. Nice to finally go back to read you take on this one.It took a while for me to get here.
    It is a very compicated plot, but I think the opacity is intentional (the Chandler quote) and for me it is a plus because it highlight how murky these waters are. Neither we nor Marlowe never get to see the full picture and that makes it both very real and very very frightening.

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