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Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Big Sleep (1946)

Mighty strange name for a movie, and one would wonder about what the name means .. the name actually is meant to represent 'death', as in the final sleep. In 1939, Raymond Chandler wrote a book where he created the famous detective persona of Philip Marlowe, and set it against a mystery involving deception, revenge, many people betraying each other, and an overall complex story line. It was but natural for such a story to be made into a movie, and this piece of fiction was made into 2 movies, one made in 1945, and the other made in 1978. The movie, released in 1946, starred the famous stars, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as the lead stars. It is tough to make such a complex case (so complex that even the author apparently left one murder in the story unsolved), and this effort was done by Director Howard Hawks, with screenplay by William Faulkner.

The Big Sleep (1946) starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall

One story about the filming that portrays the complication of the story was that when the Director was unable to figure out as to who killed the chauffeur Owen Taylor, he sent a note to the author Chandler, and Chandler could not figure out either. By the time of the movie release, the 'story' of Bogart and Bacall was in full flow, and Bacall's agent wanted to get more screen presence of Bacall in the movie, and new scenes were added for this purpose. And of course, this also meant that scenes of Martha Vickers (Carmen) were cut in order to give more significance to Bacall. Another interesting point was that the novel had to be censored to fit into the production mores that were in force in Hollywood at that time.
The movie is about the investigation by Private Detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) of a case given to him by General Sternwood (Charles Waldron). The General wants him to resolve some gambling debts owed by his younger daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers) to a bookseller called Arthur Geiger. In this visit, Carmen tries to flirt with Philip, but he remains indifferent to her. He also meets the General's recently divorced older daughter, Mrs. Vivian Rutlidge (Lauren Bacall). And Philip plunges headlong into a mystery involving nymphomania, pornography, murder, deceit. At the center of all this is Carmen, and involves the murder of Geiger. In the end, after some murders, a lot of violence, eventually he is able to learn the true facts of the case and figure out what to tell the police.

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