Its 2:58 pm
Well,here we are….the cheetah and I have finally finished our look at all four film pairings of the legendary Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I gotta say that this was one of the most fun set of reviews that I have written. But we ain’t done yet with looking at older classics,I can see why so many film bloggers enjoy reaching back and bringing these classics back so that today’s new generation can get a chance to see why story ALWAYS comes first over huge set pieces or crazy good special/CGI effects.
As always,I like to thank our own Marlowe at Warner Brothers Archive for helping us on this fun four film journey with Bogie and Bacall. It’s been a great ride to say the least.
Private eye Philip Marlowe (Bogart) is summoned to a potential client,a General Sternwood. Sternwood,a wealthy but sickly man,wants to hire Marlowe to deal with the gambling debts his younger daughter Carmen(Martha Vickers) has racked up. Marlowe met the sultry young woman when he arrived as she kept on calling Marlowe “cute”.
This hasn’t been Carmen’s first trouble but the man the General Sternwood had handle it,Sean Regan,has vanished and no one knows where he is. Marlowe comments that while Marlowe worked for the District Attorney’s office,he had encountered Sean. While the men weren’t friends,they had a mutual respect for each as straight shooters.
Marlowe agrees to take the case and starts to head out when the butler,Norris,says that Vivian Rutledge (Bacall) wishes to speak with him. Marlowe walks into her room where they engage is some witty give and take with Marlowe taking no guff from Vivian. He know she is trying to figure out what her dad wanted with him but he refuses to say.
Marlowe then goes to see the man holding Carmen’s debt,a book store owner named Geiger,Marlowe attempts to bluff his way into seeing him but the clerk manages to deflect him but not before Marlowe sees two men moving stock outside to a car in a alley.
He follows the car and when it pulls into a house,Marlowe pulls a stakeout. After many boring hours,he hears a woman’s scream and two gunshots. He starts to dash in when two cars,including the one he was following,race away.
Marlowe enters and see not is Geiger dead on the floor but Carmen is there is a stupor,she is high on some sort of drug. Putting her on the couch,he quickly frisks the house and finds out that Geiger is (was) into blackmail,Marlowe finds the camera but the film is gone. They are suddenly interrupted by Eddie Mars,a smooth talking gangster who also happens to own the house where Geiger lives at. After a small show of force,Mars lets Marlowe take Carmen.
He drops Carmen at her house and when Vivian starts asking questions,Marlowe ignores her and tell her that she and Carmen were home all night and they never saw Marlowe either. He then leaves and returns to Geiger’s home but the body has vanished. Marlowe then heads home but his sleep is cut short when he gets a call from his friend Bernie who is a police captain. He says they found a car registered in the Sternwoods sitting in 12 feet of water off a pier and there is a body in it…
Marlowe,thinking it may be Regan’s,drives down and its out found that the man was the Sternwood’s chauffeur,Owen,he was trying to catch whoever was blackmailing Carmen.
Vivian makes contact with Marlowe and says the blackmailers have made contact,they want 5k or else the pictures of a drugged Carmen will be exposed. Marlowe doesn’t want to inform the General about this and asks if Vivian can scrape up the cash herself,she can but she’ll need Mars’s help in doing so.
After returning to to the bookstore,he sees the same two men he saw before and this time he tails them to an apartment of one Joe Brody. He then talks to Vivian who says the blackmailers failed to contact her which sets off an inner alert to Marlowe. He goes to Brody’s apartment where he see none other then Vivian Rutledge herself. Joe tries to act tough but Marlowe is all over him…when the doorbell rings,Marlowe has Joe answer it only to surprised by a drugged Carmen who is packing heat and “wants my picture”. Marlowe disarms her as well. Brody admits to being the blackmailer and Marlowe forces him to give Carmen the negative and has Vivian take Carmen home.
Brody tells Marlowe that he didn’t kill Geiger and Marlowe has already figured that out,he knows Brody killed Owen Taylor,who was trying to help Carmen. As Brody begins to sing,the doorbell rings again but when Brody answers it,he is killed by a mysterious gunman. Marlowe gives chase knowing this case is far from over……..
This is a damn fine movie and I would rate “The Big Sleep” as the 2nd best of the 4 films that Bogie and Bacall did together. The background of the film is pretty interesting. It was originally filmed in 1944 by Howard Hawks. But after it was completed and was ready for release by March of 1945,it was put on Warner Brothers shelf. Why?
Because while ready,World War 2 was winding down with the Allies poised to beat both Germany and Japan. Warner Brothers had a lot war pictures it needed to release before the war was over so it could cash in before the movies appeared dated. Jack Warner knew a private eye film could be looked at almost any time without being dated.
It was also at this time that Charles K. Feldman,a power “player” in Hollywood,wrote a letter to Jack Warner and urged him to re-shoot several scenes with Lauren Bacall. Her career had taken a big hit with a poor reaction to a film called “Confidential Agent” and Feldman feared about badly received performance would finish Bacall’s career.
Luckily Warner agreed and arranged to have several key scenes re-shot and a couple of scenes added. This was done after a year had passed. Bogart and Bacall only agreed to do it if Hawks was the one directing it which he did. The film was released and was very well received and it saved Lauren Bacall’s career.
On this Warner Brothers Archive release,you get both the original film and the film that was released to the theaters. Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe is a iconic detective and as hard boiled as they come and Bogart is excellent in the role. It seemed like he was born to play Marlowe,tough,no nonsense but very loyal and at least in this film,has a compassionate streak. He also was the last man to piss off as well as shown in key scenes,Marlowe believed in justice,no matter how it was dealt out.
“The Big Sleep” has a run time of 1 hour 54 minutes and the special features include the original film plus all the cuts there were added/deleted. You can order “The Big Sleep” on BluRay by visiting the website of Warner Brothers Archive.
You can also read our takes of the other three films as well. Which film was your favorite? Drop us a comment and let us know what you thought of this series.