Anthony's Film Review

The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep is a high point in the genre of cinematic film noir...

Humphrey Bogart will always be remembered as the private Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, based on Dashiell Hammett's novel of the same name. Interestingly enough, Bogart will also be remembered for portraying another fictional detective in another film created by another classic crime novelist: Philip Marlowe in the 1946 film The Big Sleep, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. I think this is a very good thing. Given how great Bogart was with Spade, he would be a natural for the equally hard-boiled Marlowe. As a result, both Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler have their most well-known classic stories made into outstanding movies.

There is one thing to keep in mind, however. Compared to Hammett's Maltese Falcon, Chandler's Big Sleep has a plot that is convoluted, not straightforward. It's not impossible to follow the story, but you have to pay extra attention. Even if you create, in your mind or on paper, a diagram that illustrates the connections among the characters, you still have to prepare to revise it when new plot twists are thrown at you. Obviously, I won't even attempt to summarize about half of the plot. Instead, I'll just provide you with the setup.

Marlowe is asked by General Sternwood to stop a blackmailing scheme against him. The old man has been given a demand for $5,000, which, if he pays it, will prompt a gambler named Joe Brody to leave his daughter Carmen alone. Marlowe looks into the lifestyle of Carmen Sternwood, a wild young woman caught up with shady characters, after finding checks written by her to a man named Arthur Geiger for gambling debts. From there, Marlowe encounters those characters plus others, including Carmen's older sister Vivian Rutledge (played by Lauren Bacall) and another blackmailer named Eddie Mars.

Now let me share with you the good news about The Big Sleep. You can still love this movie even if your attention span is limited and you are unable or unwilling to follow the complexities of the case. That's because of the film's other strong point: the chemistry and tension between Philip Marlowe and Vivian Rutledge, thanks to flawless performances by Bogart and Bacall, respectively. When they appear on screen together, there is a mixture of attraction and suspicion going both ways. The two characters may be drawn to one another or maintain their distance from one another, but in the end, they don't really drift apart.

On top of that, Bogart delivers equally fine performances when he faces dangerous situations. For one thing, his character shows no fear, even at gunpoint. Instead, he maintains a brave persona and demonstrates skill in relentless tough talk. This is why Philip Marlowe is both a man you don't want to mess with if you're a villain and a hero whom everyone else can root for. The more I see Bogart play the role, the more I cannot see anyone else play the part just as well.

The Big Sleep is simply a great film. It's great because of a plot that is ingeniously written, even if it is not easy to follow. It's also great because of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall being wonderful on screen. As long as you can enjoy at least one of these two things, you will surely enjoy this film. The Big Sleep represents another masterpiece from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about The Big Sleep, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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