Directed by: Howard Hawks
Screenplay by: William Faulkner, Jules Furthman, and Leigh Brackett
Tagline: “The type of man she hated... was the type she wanted!”
The wealthy and dying General Sternwood hires private-eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) to keep an eye on his youngest daughter, Carmen (Martha Vickers), whose propensity to associate with the wrong people poses a threat to herself and the respectable Sternwood family. Along the way Marlow meets and falls for Carmen's older sister, Vivien (Lauren Bacall). Vivien does not reciprocate his feelings. Soon murder follows murder and mystery follows mystery. Along the way, sexual tension builds between Marlowe and Vivien. Classic hard-boiled film noir.
Director Howard Hawks has brought Raymond Chandler's famous detective, Philip Marlowe, to the screen in memorable fashion.
The story involves Philip Marlowe (Bogart), being hired by a wealthy man, General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), to investigate the supposed gambling debts of a wild daughter, Carmen, played by Martha Vickers. In the course of the film, Marlowe becomes involved with pornographers (subtly implied), grifters, murder, illegal gambling, and the family's OTHER daughter, Vivian, played with great style, by Lauren Bacall.
"The Big Sleep" is one of the most entertaining detective movies ever made. Part of it is the direction, part of it is the cast, and a lot of it is the great dialogue in the script, courtesy of William Faulkner, Jules Furthman, and Leigh Brackett, which was adapted from the Raymond Chandler novel, his first. This film is very enjoyable today, fifty years after its debut.
A memorable scene takes place between Bogart and Bacall at a restaurant-bar. As they flirt, they speak in a kind of sexual code, using references to horse racing; like making it around the track and riding, in place of more explicit language. It's fun, witty, spicy dialogue, though technically "clean." Unlike many other Hollywood married couple who have shared the screen together over the years, Bogart and Bacall have great screen chemistry.
This beautifully photographed film noir is a nearly perfect example of the 1940's approach to studio-based, film making. Virtually every scene was shot on a Warner Brothers soundstage or on the back lot, as opposed to real exteriors, giving the film makers total control of the various elements of the film.
Also, it is a classic tale because of the film's clever, involving, complicated script. No one seems to know who committed one of the film's numerous murders. Even the source novelist, Chandler, didn't know. This story glitch doesn't inhibit your enjoyment of the movie.