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Philip Marlowe, private dick, is called to the palatial Sternwood estate. General Sternwood has two daughters, and at least as many problems. Because of gambling debts accumulated by Carmen, the younger and wilder daughter, he is blackmailed. Maybe it has something to do with a former manservant; or maybe itís pornography or drugs or rare books; or an illegal casino, shady property ownership; or poison or an illicit affair or a few cryptically related murders. Or maybe the whole thing is about the continuous introduction of new characters and information - at the last possible minute. Whatever, by the filmís end thereís just one thing thatís crystal clear; Marlow has fallen for older daughter Vivian, and Bogart has fallen for Bacall. And thatís all that matters.

"Fifty years ago, this film must have had quite an impact with its racy antics - and it has aged well. As private eye films go, itís classic, if a little confusing, but as cinema, itís engrossingly, palpably human in its scale and its morals. Retaining some of the snappiest lines of quick-witted dialogue from the book ("She was trying to sit on my lap while I was standingÖ"), the scripting team has done Chandler proud for cool, fast humour, splendidly delivered by Bogey and Bacall, just at the start of their off screen romance. Bogey had a few bad days on set during filming, drinking too much under stress with his marriage breaking up, but this hardly shows. His hard-nut, cool-heart Philip Marlowís school of charm is more robust than romantic until it starts to warm up over Bacallís Vivian. Identifying the plot, with its six murders vying for solutions, is like trying to identify your undies in the tumble dryer, but with a lot more fun and far greater suspense, not to mention far better musical accompaniment. The renovation work at UCLA has created an excellent new print and watching this is like a hugely entertaining glimpse back in cultural time. With pizzazz. Enjoy."
Andrew L. Urban

"There is a certain magic in watching movie legends strutt their stuff in the classic films that made them household names. And The Big Sleep has all the elements, magnified today by details of their personal relationship and the information now brought to light about how the changes made were to enhance Bacallís career. The alluring star-power of Bogie and Bacall is never more provocative: listen for Bogieís classic line "Whatís wrong with you?" and Bacallís answer "Nothing you canít fix." The plot is complex, but itís the charm of the characters that hook you. I especially like the character of frail General Sternwood, whose health forces him to live in a hothouse full of orchids; his sense of humour allowing him to enjoy by proxy the brandy and cigarette indulged by his guests. Max Steinerís moody musical score enhances the suspense, while Hawksí well-paced direction makes this one of the great classics of all time."
Louise Keller

"When "The Big Sleep" hit theatres in 1946, Lauren Bacall had had one hit, one miss and her career was badly off track. What the audience didnít know at the time, was that the version they were seeing was the result of careful, pre-release reworking to improve her part, masterminded by Bacallís agent, Charles K. Feldman. The guy had clout in Hollywood, even with the likes of studio head Jack Warner. And he had timing. Sleep itself was completed in January of 1945, but with WWII winding down, Warner Brothers was pushing up the release of their remaining war films before they went out of date. Sleep had been shelved until peace broke out. In the meantime, letters flew fast and furious between Feldman and Warner, plotting the restart of production. The plot remains the same. Philip Marlowe wades into the mire of corruption that is the Sternwood Family. But the character of Vivian (beautifully played by Bacall) is stronger, more interesting. Some changes are subtle - camera angles are improved or lines dubbed to ensure continuity. Some are more radical. Scenes are cut, re-edited or re-shot. Entirely new ones with Bacall were added. Feldman wanted to recapture the insolent quality she had played in "To Have and Have Not." Itís no coincidence, I think, that in the first added scene, Marlowe calls Vivian just that, insolent. One re-shoot resulted from Feldman intensely disliking a particular scene in Marloweís office where Bacall wears a veiled hat. He was right. Even on Bacall, it looked dorky. The scene was re-written and set in a night club. The pay-off is that, not only does Bacall lose the veil and gain the gold lame, dialogue was added that gave filmdom one of the most memorable scenes ever. In it, Marlowe and Vivian size each other up in the biblical sense, using horseracing as the metaphor. Which ever version of the Hawks film you prefer, one fact remains clear: that Hawks redefined a popular genre and turned it upside down. Its narrative is messy but then who cares with dialogue as sharp and funny. The film remains atmospheric and boldly painted, it also remains deliriously entertaining and frenetic. Itís certainly one of Hawksí truly great achievements and as for Bogart and Bacall, their partnership remains defined by this mesmeric film."
Paul Fischer

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(US, 1946)

CAST: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone (see release version credits)

DIRECTOR: Howard Hawks

PRODUCER: Howard Hawks

SCRIPT: William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman, from the novel by Raymond Chandler.


EDITOR: Christian Nyby

MUSIC: Max Steiner


RUNNING TIME: 116 mins


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE (renovated print): July 3, 1997

VIDEO RELEASE: October 1999


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