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19 September 2005

The Big Sleep (1946)

Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall
Directed by Howard Hawks (Bringing Up Baby)

From Hollywood Video: "A laconic private eye is drawn into a web of blackmail and murder when he tries to protect a millionaire's spoiled daughter."

Argh. Movies like this give old films a bad name. Great lead cast - yes. Proven director - yes. Talented writers - yes (THE William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay). But in the end, the story's the thing. Hawks, Faulkner, Bogart and Bacall worked together one year prior when they made the fantastic, funny, sexy, brilliant To Have and Have Not, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. The Big Sleep was based on a Raymond Chandler novel, to much less impressive results.

Despite numerous re-shoots to increase the screen time between Bogie & Bacall, the play between them was stiff and artificial, as if they were simply imitating the success they achieved with Bacall's debut in To Have and Have Not. As Keven commented, two characters are not "in love" when one of them says "I guess I'm in love with you," but that's what was offered here. No other indications of affection or interest preceded their clumsy declarations - no serious flirtations, no common cause, and nothing to indicate that they shared anything more than animosity and duplicity.

Maybe the film should have remained a Bogart vehicle, despite how tired and aged he appeared. Maybe the agents' and producers' attempts to recreate the chemistry and success of To Have and Have Not distracted from what could have been a good, serious, hard-boiled detective drama. Adding a clumsy love story in order to put Bogie & Bacall back on the credits together made for a messy, sometimes tedious film.

I guess I'll have to see Key Largo and Dark Passage now, to make a fair assessment of this legendary conundrum!

Two bits of trivia: This film is currently listed as the 119th best film of all time according to IMDB ratings (which should make you question either the general public's opinion or mine), and Howard Hawks was born in little Goshen, Indiana, where my parents lived from 1993-2003 and where Keven and I were married.

Blogger Mircalla said...

Oh no! I have this film at home--bought it last year and never watched it. I wanted to watch it before reading your review, but my eye followed on the first paragraph of your post, and I got discouraged. How disappointing. :o (

Blogger Mircalla said...

I meant *fell* not *followed*.

*My eye fell on the first paragraph...*

:.( [crying emoticon]

Blogger carrie_lofty said...

You should still see it, because it seems to be quite a favorite among some people. It is still considered a classic. But then... go watch To Have and Have Not to compare, and let me know what you think!

Blogger fatrobot said...

one of my all time favourite movies
bogart rules and bacall is a hottie in that one

Blogger Mircalla said...

I watched it, I think Silvia probably fell asleep. It was pretty good as I recall, but it's been a while so I might check it out again, as Silv is still quite interested, despite your review.

Blogger Mircalla said...

^ that was steve by the way. ^

Blogger carrie_lofty said...

Good - like I said, plenty of people seem to enjoy it. I just don't care for the hard-boiled detective style, and this film was about 85% like that. The dialogue wasn't as snappy as other Bogie films, and I loved it when Bacall was more of his equal and partner in THAHN. She's so awesome I wanted more parts with her in it :) And I much prefer something with a bit more spark, romance & style, with a little bit of drama/plot on the side!


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