Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Big Sleep (1946)

You'll like what you hear in The Big Sleep even if what you see leaves you a little confused.

This 1946 crime film from director Howard Hawks offers plenty of great lines and a cast chock full of Hollywood greats and character actor veterans.

General Sternwood (Charles Waldron in his last screen credit) wants private eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) to clean up the latest mess left by his youngest daughter. Sternwood, crippled and dying, knows said child, Carmen (Martha Vickers) and Vivian (Lauren Bacall) are "pretty and pretty wild."

Marlowe is soon up to his neck in a trail of blackmail, murder and cover-ups. Sternwood's daughters live up to their reputation rubbing shoulders with gamblers, pornographers and henchmen.

Sparks fly between Marlowe and Vivian. Heck, sparks fly between Marlowe and just about every woman he meets including a cab driver (the only time I can ever remember seeing a 20-something shapely lady behind the wheel of a taxi) and a book store owner (Dorothy Malone, still alive at 88).

I keep notes when I'm watching films, but tracking this storyline is a doozy. If you can understand it all in one viewing, my hat's off to you. Well done. Instead, I'll highlight some of this film's best lines:

Marlowe: "I don't know how much trouble you're used to, but I hope you've had plenty of practice dodging it."

Eddie Mars (John Ridgely): "I could make your business mine."
Marlowe: "You wouldn't like it. The pay's too small."

Marlowe: "My, my, my. Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains."

As an added bonus, Elisha Cook - the hapless goon who tracked Bogart's Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon is back for a small role. Here he's Harry Jones, a hood trying to cash in on some information. Cook, it's good to see you again after your great work in John Huston's directorial debut.

I'll spend some more time trying to figure out the plot. Give this film a go. It's a Hollywood classic.

RATING: 9/10

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