The Big Sleep - Classic Film Pick
Howard Hawks's 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's hardboiled noir novel is about one thing and one thing only, the insanely dynamic chemistry between Bogart and Bacall. Coming off their first film together (Hawks's "To Have and Have Not") the actors carried on a quiet affair with the much older Bogart mentoring Bacall as an actor as well. Bogart plays private detective Philip Marlowe, a man whose sexual appeal to women knows no boundaries. Hawks was careful to pack every available scene with as much sexual innuendo as possible.
A convoluted story involving the murder of a gambling debt collector sets the stage for Bogart to hold court as the coolest card in the deck regardless of who's holding the gun. Naturally many pistols are drawn as Marlowe follows up on an apparently blackmail-related murder. Steamy photos of a client's hot-to-trot nubile daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers) are at the heart of the blackmail, but Carmen's older sister Vivian Rutledge (Bacall) generates the heat. Her bedroom eyes weighed down with erotic desire, Bacall's Vivian is the only thing more composed than Bogart's quick-talking man's man. For all the women who throw themselves at Marlowe throughout the film, only one has a chance of sealing the deal. When the kiss between them finally arrives, Marlowe aptly treats it as business to be done away with until opportunity allows an encore of such pleasant luxury. As dead bodies pile up, so too does the romantic connection between the actors who would wed before "The Big Sleep" even opened in theaters.
"The Big Sleep" is a triumph of style over substance. So much of its joy comes from the way Bogart and Bacall deliver Raymond Chandler's witty language that there's no point in trying to put the pieces of the elaborate crime plot together. Here, the entire story is merely a MacGuffin for the actors to riff on. And oh, what riffing they do!
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Big Sleep - Classic Film Pick: