The Big Sleep (1946, 1978)
I recently watched this 1946 film directed by Howard Hawks. It was on my list of must see movies for a long time as it is considered a classic of the dark movie genre and I finally found a DVD of it in my library. Based on a novel by Raymond Chandler, it stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the former as private detective Philip Marlowe hired by an elderly millionaire with two strong-willed and beautiful daughters, the eldest of whom is played by Bacall, who has a wild, drug-using and promiscuous younger sister who is blackmailed with photographs taken of her in compromising positions.
As Marlowe’s investigation progresses, people start getting killed left and right. But unlike most detective stories, where everything is neatly tied together at the end and there’s a single killer (or maybe two killers), this one defies such a clean ending. I counted seven murders, six each committed by a different person and the seventh missing. Bacall’s character also keeps popping up everywhere, even in places he shouldn’t be, with no explanation as to why she’s there and what she’s doing.
It’s the kind of movie that moves so fast with dialogue so lively that it keeps you engrossed and seems logical as you watch it, especially as Marlowe’s character keeps repeatedly explaining to different people what is going on and that he knows what they are doing. It’s only after the movie ends that you realize a lot of it doesn’t make sense. As this fun review says, this movie is proof that plot doesn’t matter.
Listen, I could take the trouble to unbox this serpentine nonsense or point out that while none of this really matters, the movie it puts together does a lot. Admittedly, I suspect the convoluted nature was largely due to getting an unseemly story past the censors in the Hays office by any means necessary.
But in the end, all that spins uselessly The big sleep adds to the maze, you’ll never find your way. But why should you bother? At the heart of this film, Hawks crafted the wittiest, fastest noir detective from the genre’s glory days of the 1940s.
Once again, The big sleep is about a tough detective, but it’s not marketed or built on a loner cynic like Bogart’s Sam Spade, but around a two-hour flirtation between Bogart and Bacall. Bullets, alcohol and bloody corpses are foreplay.
What about the unexplained murder I mentioned above? At one point, Bogart asked the filmmakers who killed him. No one knew and it seems even author Chandler couldn’t help.
Famously Hawks even brought together its screenwriters, including William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman, to unpack the dense storyline of Chandler’s novel before finally wiring the author to ask what does it even mean?! The way Chandler tells it in his diaries, the filmmakers asked him who exactly killed Owen Taylor, a driver the audience never met until he emerged as the second unexplainable murder victim in 10 minutes. .
“They sent me a telegram,” Chandler wrote. “Ask me, and damn it, I didn’t know either!” »
Note that one of the script writers was William Faulkner, himself the creator of famous convoluted novels where the plot is secondary and makes little sense and you have to work hard to figure out what is going on. He would probably be unfazed by having to write a screenplay around a largely incoherent plot.
I’m someone who gets irritated when the plot doesn’t make sense, unless the movie is surreal or deliberately and openly talking about something other than the story, then one would think I would have hated this movie. However, I found the film enjoyable. Maybe the plot is overrated after all.
After I finished writing the above review and when I searched online for the trailer to complete it, I found that there was a remake in 1978. It’s available in its entirety on YouTube for free without ads, although it avoided copyright infringement. do not know. So a week after watching the 1946 movie I watched the 1978 one which you can see here.
They had moved the location to England, even though the black The genre is closely identified with the United States, particularly Los Angeles, and Chandler’s books are set there. The new film had a star-studded cast of American and English actors (Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Sarah Miles, Oliver Reed, Joan Collins, Richard Boone, Harry Andrews, John Mills, Edward Fox). Mitchum is a wonderful actor and is perfect for the tough detective role, and has played that role in other films. The romance between him and Sarah Miles (who plays Lauren Bacall) is reduced to light flirtation. In the 1946 film, they went to great lengths to have Bogart and Bacall onscreen together, which meant she appeared in situations where it was unlikely. Also, since this movie was made after the end of the Hays Code which had strict censorship, it could be much more sexually explicit with nudity, and also include a homosexual relationship.
This version made much more sense, with many of the plot holes of the 1946 version filled in and some implausibilities removed. Marlowe receives a voice-over narration that explains what is happening. The driver’s death is still somewhat vague, however, likely due to the fact that Chandler’s book left it ambiguous.
Given my preference for a coherent plot, I think I prefer the 1978 version.
Here are the two trailers.