Movie buffs have a chance to see on the big screen again, three of the four films Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together. It was during the making of To Have And Have Not the two fell in love and this makes their films together a true collaboration, a Hollywood love team. They are at The Screening Room in Kingston.
The Big Sleep (1946) is on tonight at 7 p.m.This is one of my favorite films. The Big Sleep(Warner Brothers, 1946) is a complex detective yarn that you almost have to see several times but if this is your first, go anyway. There is an enigmatic and dramatic thrust that makes it worth seeing again and again.
Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), it is the character of Philip Marlowe that conveys the idea of the private detective that Bogart played to great effect in The Maltese Falcon in 1941 for director John Huston.
Bogart was not the only one to play Marlowe. There was Dick Powell in Murder My Sweet (1944), Robert Montgomery in The Lady In The Lake (1946) where he is portrayed subjectively as he tells his story in flashback, George Montgomery in The Brasher Doubloon (1947), James Garner in Marlowe (1969), Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye (1974) and Robert Mitchum in Farewell My Lovely (1975) and The Big Sleep (1978).
Chandler's novel The Big Sleep came out in 1939 and he became famous due to its popularity. Up until then he had written twenty novellas for Black Mask and other magazines.
The genesis of Philip Marlowe came from the author's fertile imagination. He was a character who did not have a name until later.
In the December 1944 issue of Atlantic Monthly he explained how he came up with Marlowe. He saw him as a modern knight in search of a hidden truth. As he tries to find it he goes on a journey that takes him to the mean streets. He described Marlowe as someone who must be a man with character and honour and he must know his job and accept no money dishonestly. He talks with a rude wit and shows contempt for pettiness and disgust for a sham.
In the seven novels featuring Marlowe, he is a man who resists the corrupting influences around him. His clients are wealthy but money has made them unhappy. In The Big Sleep, for example, General Sternwood is a recluse with so much money he can't enjoy it. He hires Marlowe to find a blackmailer and ends up getting involved in a case of murder and doublecross.
Directed by Howard Hawks, The Big Sleep is a fine example of entertainment substituting for art and what you have is acting on a level you don't see anymore. Bogart's Marlowe is a close relative of Sam Spade. Compare both their inscrutable logic and determination to get at the truth. Both characters are careful to watch out for themselves and find help others no matter what might happen and, yet, he is a detective who learns fast by example.
William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman have written sharp dialogue to match the wits of the actors who personify the intrigue and suspense to a high degree, and under Hawks' direction, you become so immersed as if you are right up there with them.
Lauren Bacall in her autobiography, By Myself, says during the filming of The Big Sleep no one understood what was going. It didn't do any good to call Raymond Chandler.
For anyone seeing The Big Sleep for the first or umpteenth time, there is definitely a sea of mystery and action in a story that is as real and genuine as it can be on the big screen. The chemistry between Bogart and Bacall is something to look forward to. The Big Sleep was their second time together after To Have And Have Not (Warner Brothers, 1944) which The Screening Room is showing on June 24 at 4 p.m. On June 27 is Dark Passage (Warner Brothers, 1947).
Missing is Key Largo (1948) which you can seek out to rent or buy. It is directed by John Huston.
June 13, 2012
Copyright Rick Jackson 2012