Humphrey Bogart is considered by many movie-buffs to be one of, if not the, greatest actors of all time; so you knew it was only a matter of time before a Bogart movie was finally featured in this series (and considering this is the first Bogart film I’ve seen, you can probably guess another popular film of his will also be coming soon).
Bogart stars as Philip Marlowe, a private investigator hired by the wealthy General Sternwood regarding some blackmailing of his daughter Carmen. Sternwood’s other daughter, Vivian Rutledge wants Marlowe to tell her the real reason her father hired him as she believes it is to find out what happened to a guy named Sean Regan (her father’s friend who has been missing for a month).
I’m not going to say anything else about the plot, and the simple reason for that is because I was confused throughout. People are murdered, and the plot keeps twisting and it’s all very confusing. I tried to look things up, and turns out not even the writer of the novel the film is based on knew who had killed characters in his book (I can’t feel bad about being confused when the author himself doesn’t even know what’s going on in his fictional story). It doesn’t help when the plot for the movie was a butchered version of the novel due to the Hay’s Code censorship of “indecency.”
It’s best to just not even worry about the plot here, which does seem weird to suggest considering this is a crime/detective noir.
Instead, this one is worth watching purely for the performances of the two stars: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Specifically, Bogart is very good in his role as the private investigator and the film does have some good one-liners. Bacall’s performance isn’t great by any stretch, but there is a good dynamic when she’s on the screen with Bogart. The two had good chemistry in this film (and I’ll have to look up their 1944 film “To Have And Have Not”), and it’s not at all surprising the two were married in 1945 (but not when this movie was filmed) despite Bacall’s being some 20-years younger than Bogart.
The direction of Howard Hawks is also quite good here, and this is now the fourth Hawks’ film that I’ve seen (really loved Bringing Up Baby, don’t particularly care for Rio Bravo or Rio Lobo but that has more to do with my disliking John Wayne movies than anything). The Big Sleep might be a confusing mess plot wise, but at least it is an entertaining confusing mess, and considering the fact that I watch movies purely to be entertained I don’t reckon I can complain too much.
Probably not Bogart’s best, but I’ve seen enough now to realize that I’m finally ready to sit down and watch his most famous film… Casablanca.
The Big Sleep gets a three out of five: GOOD.