The Big Sleep (1946)

Sometimes, you need to get back to the classics. And what is more classic than Humphrey Bogart along Lauren Bacall in a ‘film noir’? The answer is: nothing. (Possibly another film noir.)

I’m very into film noir. It is a genre that intrigues me, and has for purpose to intrigue, so I’m right on track with that.

The Big Sleep is originally a novel by Raymond Chandler. It’s only after seeing the movie I noticed I had it on my bookshelf. I had once bought a second-hand book at university to support a charity cause, with the intent to read it and I never did. (A real shame, cause every book deserves to be read, because that is its purpose of existence.) The book contained 3 novels by Chandler, and the first one is The Big Sleep.

The movie stars Bogart and Bacall in their second movie together, directed by Howard Hawks.


Bogart plays private detective Philip Marlowe who is hired by General Sternwood, father of Bacall’s character. The General is being blackmailed for gambling debts of his youngest daughter, Carmen. It seems it was not the first time the General was targeted for blackmail about his youngest daughter. Marlowe connects the blackmail case to the sudden disappearance of the Generals much favoured employee. And after meeting the General eldest daughter, her instant dislike to him and meddling attitude to the case, he decides to pursue the family’s case even more. With murder, deceit and love in abundance.

There is a little scene in the bookshop, well actually 2 bookshop scenes, that are fun and playful. Definitely look out for those.

I admit, the plot is pretty complex. You need to stay focussed or you lose the plot entirely. There is a lot of innuendo, especially in the dialogues by Bogart and Bacall. The witty remarks and dialogues are what make a film noir also so pleasant to watch, because things are never clearly said. The characters are always seizing up how much the other characters really know, or to hide their true intentions. It must be fun to write such stories and figure out ways to hide and be obvious in the intentions expressed like that.



I’m now reading the book and finding, as to be expected, many small differences. Seeing the movie was made in a time where censorship was applied very strictly, the scenes with the naked Carmen was rewritten, the homosexual relationship between Geiger and Lundgren is not mentioned and the pornographic pictures Marlowe finds aren’t mentioned at all.


While looking at the internet for info on this, I stumbled on things I found interesting. Like the low voice in which Bacall speaks, is actually not her normal tone of voice. She taught herself to speak in a lower tone of voice for her acting. This lead me to the Bogart-Bacall syndrome or BBS, a vocal misuse disorder. It is something common with actors, singers or voice actors who get a hoarse voice as a result of speaking continuously in a low-pitched voice.

Here is an excerpt from the movie. Look at how the conversation is packed with innuendo and how the shift in the conversation suddenly takes place, just by the look in Bacall’s eyes. A treat.


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