The dialogue is hard-boiled and crackles with wit, the plot is fast-paced and nearly impenetrable, and Humphrey Bogart is coolly unflappable in Howard Hawkes’s stylish noir classic The Big Sleep, based on the Raymond Chandler novel.
Bogart stars as Chandler hero Philip Marlowe, a tough gumshoe who admits that he’s not very tall ("I try to be") and whose answer to the question "How do you like your brandy?" is "In a glass."
The case begins with Marlowe being hired by an elderly, well-to-do widower who is being blackmailed over the wayward behavior of the younger of his two lovely daughters. The elder, more responsible daughter (Lauren Bacall in her second film with Bogey, after To Have and Have Not) is clearly trying to protect her sister and father, and isn’t sure whether Marlowe is part of the problem or part of the solution.
The labyrinthine plot contains so many shady characters, twists, double-crosses, and shootings that even with a score card it’s almost impossible to keep straight. Even the title makes no clear sense! But The Big Sleep is less about plot than about style, atmosphere, classic repartee — and Bogey and Bacall’s onscreen chemistry.
The Big Sleep exists in two versions: the official 1946 theatrical release, and an earlier 1944 version which, though dramatically inferior to the 1946 cut, does help illuminate certain plot points. The DVD edition includes both versions of the film and a documentary comparing and contrasting the two versions..
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