Vintage Icons • Movies

“The Big Sleep”

5 February, 2014

Release date: 1946

Director: Howard Hawks


Humphrey Bogart (Phillip Marlowe)

Lauren Bacall (Vivien Rutledge)

John Ridgley (Eddie Mars)

Martha Vickers (Carmen Sternwood)

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National Film Preservation Board (1997)

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Did you know?:

  • It was the second film Bogart and Bacall performed together. After three months, they got married.
  • The scene where Bogart and Bacall chatted about horses was added after the film was edited, in order to introduce a slyness atmosphere. Howard had already done this previously in To have and have not.
  • Lauren Bacall herself sings the song in one of the scenes. That is her voice, unlike some rumours that said it was doubled.
  • Sternwood’s mansion is exactly the same one as in Mildred Pierce.
  • The scene where Eddie Mars is murdered by his own men was reused by the director in his last western El Dorado.
  • William Faulkner helped Hawks to write the plot. When the author of the book, Raymond Chandler was asked who murdered the driver, he didn’t know what to answer.

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The movie was a success in theatres. However reviews said that it was an inmoral and violent film.

It’s full of contradictions, cynical talks, irony and hard men. The mystery starts the moment Marlowe chats with the General Sternwood in a dark and sad atmosphere, almost stifling where nobody gives anything away and everyone search their own benefit. It’s a pessimist and grey world.

The detective seems to know everything about the story. And the woman, even though she’s a secondary actress and the love story is also underground, makes the plot explode in sparks every time she has a scene with the main character. The scene at General’s house, where Vivien – Lauren Bacall – tries to find out why his father hired him is just brilliant. The following day, at Marlowe’s office, when they are laughing at the police on the phone is almost an icon to the comedy genre. Same happens with the unforgettable scene at the bar while they are talking about horses. Bogart and Bacall connect totally and seem to be an exceptional couple.

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When the plot is about to be in depths of despair, Bogart and Bacall know what joke to tell in order to make you have some fun. It’s not that the plot is difficult to understand (although I have to admit I thought I missed something when it finished) but that I’m sure it’s a movie made exclusively for the two of the main characters.

Bogart makes a sensational performance and Lauren Bacall, with her inimitable voice and her seductive glance shows she has learnt all about the profession, even though she was only 20 years old by then.

The argument – although confusing sometimes – is brilliantly directed by Hawks. He makes viewers follow Marlowe wherever he goes. Public know no more than the main character himself. That way Hawks gets you totally into the plot.

Let me finish this review with this curious image for you to understand the mess there’s in the movie, and the amount of different character performing in it.


Don’t stop paying attention every second in the movie, I recommend.


2 Bp.,, Lo-bueno-si-breve,

Memorable scenes:

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