The Big Sleep (1946) – Howard Hawks


The first title in the Crime and Thriller chapter of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is this wonderful classic based on Raymond Chandler’s book, adapted by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman, it is directed by Howard Hawks and features Humphrey Bogart as Chandler’s hardboiled detective Phillip Marlowe.

The dialogue, as is the case in Hawks’ films, comes fast and furious, and the plot twists and turns in on itself as Marlowe is called in by a General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), supposedly to deal with his daughter, Carmen’s (Martha Vickers) gambling debts. But Sternwood’s other daughter, Vivian (Lauren Bacall) believes that Marlowe is actually there to track down her father’s friend Sean Regan, who mysteriously vanished a month earlier.

As Marlowe digs, one cover story leads to another, one lie gives onto the next, and the story twists and turns, and is wonderfully convoluted, with Bogart shining at its center. There are wonderful moments, and the dialogue is crackling, as Marlowe disguises himself to investigate a bookie, and then woos the shop owner across the way while he waits his target to leave.

He exudes a serious level of cool as he strolls through the film, and things begin to fire up between his Marlowe and Bacall’s Vivian. Vickers performance is equally intense, and rumor has it, most of her role ended up on the cutting room floor as it overshadowed Bacall’s.


In true noir fashion, everyone has a secret, no one can be trusted, and the ladies always seem to be dangerous. Happily Marlowe seems to be more than up to the task, and this one stands as a brilliant example of a detective story done right.

Over the past couple years of the blog, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a number of Howard Hawks’ films, and he is quickly becoming a favorite, the dialogue is rapid-fire, often over-lapping, and everything just boots along at a rocket’s pace.

Add to that, a spectacular script and amazing star power, it is no wonder that this film continues to stand the test of time. While some of the film is overshadowed by the fact that Bogart was carrying on with Bacall at the time, and was having problems with the bottle, the film itself is more than worth the watch, and you do have to watch it, as the plot weaves and turns, keeps you guessing, and by film’s end, leaves you wanting more.

What a great way to start this section of the Great Movies book, and I cannot wait to dig into the recommendations that go with it!

What’s your favorite Bogart/Bacall film?







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