The Big Sleep

Directed by Howard Hawks

Humphrey Bogart stars as private eye Marlowe, hired by General Sternwood to sort out the mess of his daughter Carmen’s life. Marlowe soon unravels a deadly web of deceit and corruption, which makes for a racy mystery as the body count mounts. A complex thriller, seductively quick-witted and a teasing commentary on genre conventions, The Big Sleep is one of the most richly entertaining films noirs ever made.

Chosen for My Noir by

Declan Clarke, artist and curator:

“Howard Hawks’ adaptation of The Big Sleep seems, in hindsight, to have been the perfect forging of a ready-made classic. One of the greatest Hollywood directors and the most iconic Hollywood screen couple (Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall), in a film of a novel by an author now regarded as having invented modern crime fiction (Raymond Chandler), scripted by a Nobel Prize-winning author (William Faulkner) and two of Hollywood’s most lauded screenwriters (Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman). What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it transpires, nothing. But plenty could have. A troubled shoot was compounded by an early test screening being a flop with audiences. Some reshoots later, the film is an almost perfect example of North American Noir. Light-hearted despite the dark subject matter, Marlowe (Bogart) and Mrs. Rutledge (Bacall) burn all in their path as they exchange deadly one-liners and almost lecherous ‘knowing glances’. The film has a reputation for having an overly-complicated plot but, in actual fact, it’s a daring and radical piece of filmmaking by Hawks. Why explain everything? And, why let the nuances of a layered plot supersede eye-watering chemistry on screen? With the pallid and anaemic plotting that passes for drama in contemporary Hollywood cinema, The Big Sleep is a film to be savored.”

114 minutes


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