The Big Sleep

1946

The Big Sleep

Critics Consensus

A perfect match of screenplay, director, and leading man, The Big Sleep stands as a towering achievement in film noir whose grim vitality remains undimmed.

97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 60

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 33,447
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Movie Info

The definitive Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall vehicle, The Big Sleep casts Bogart as Raymond Chandler's cynical private eye Philip Marlowe. Summoned to the home of the fabulously wealthy General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), Marlowe is hired to deal with a blackmailer shaking down the General's sensuous, thumb-sucking daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). This earns Marlowe the displeasure of Carmen's sloe-eyed, seemingly straight-laced older sister Vivian (Bacall), who is fiercely protective of her somewhat addled sibling. As he pursues the case at hand, Marlowe gets mixed up in the murder of Arthur Geiger (Theodore von Eltz), a dealer in pornography. He also runs afoul of gambling-house proprietor Eddie Mars (John Ridgely), who seems to have some sort of hold over the enigmatic Vivian. Any further attempts to outline the plot would be futile: the storyline becomes so complicated and convoluted that even screenwriters William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthmann were forced to consult Raymond Chandler for advice (he was as confused by the plot as the screenwriters). When originally prepared for release in 1945, The Big Sleep featured a long exposition scene featuring police detective Bernie Ohls (Regis Toomey) explaining the more obscure plot details. This expository scene was ultimately sacrificed, along with several others, in favor of building up Bacall's part; for instance, a climactic sequence was reshot to emphasize sexual electricity between Bogart and Bacall, obliging Warners to replace a supporting player who'd gone on to another project. The end result was one of the most famously baffling film noirs but also one of the most successful in sheer star power. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Humphrey Bogart
as Philip Marlowe
Dorothy Malone
as Girl in Bookshop
John Ridgely
as Eddie Mars
Regis Toomey
as Bernie Ohls
Bob Steele
as Canino
Tom Rafferty
as Carol Lundgren
Charles Waldron
as Gen. Sternwood
Tom Fadden
as Sidney
Tom Raffery
as Carol Lundgren
James Flavin
as Cronjager
Joy Barlowe
as Cab Driver
Peggy Knudsen
as Mona Mars
Carole Douglas
as Librarian
Dan Wallace
as Owen Taylor
Thomas E. Jackson
as District Attorney Wilde
Deannie Best
as Waitress
Lorraine Miller
as Hat Check Girl
Shelby Payne
as Cigarette Girl
Forbes Murray
as Furtive Man
Jack Chefe
as Croupier
Joseph Crehan
as Medical Examiner
Emmett Vogan
as Ed (Deputy Sheriff)
Paul Weber
as Mars' Thug
Jack Perry
as Mars' Thug
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Critic Reviews for The Big Sleep

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (11)

Audience Reviews for The Big Sleep

  • Jun 03, 2019
    Outstanding Noir, but not without its flaws. Nonetheless, it's among Bogie's finest acting jobs and the dialogue crackles.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • Mar 30, 2018
    This is such an iconic noir film. There is a ton of banter and fast dialogue, Humphrey Bogart is the consummate tough guy detective, and the bodies pile up amidst plot twists and action. The performances, the atmosphere, and the dialogue all make the film a classic, but beware, the plot is notorious for being difficult to follow, at least in its entirety. My advice is to pay attention to names in the film when they're mentioned. Sometimes a little factoid drops quickly, and if you miss it, you'll get lost. And, just know that even if you do keep up (and possibly pause the movie to look at the wiki plot summary, lol), you still may be confused. Why? Well, because there are several plot points which are never fully explained. I won't list them here, but they are still debated and commented on 70 years later. Frankly, I think Howard Hawks did a huge disservice to the film by cutting a scene which would have explained at least some of its convoluted plot, believing that audiences wouldn't care. With that said, he certainly made it interesting by deciding to have every woman flirt heavily with Humphrey Bogart's character. This starts in the opening scene, when Martha Vickers saunters out in shorts, rolls her eyes around seductively, and then falls into his arms. Subtle, eh? Moments later, Bogart is in a bookstore with Dorothy Malone (then 19 years old), and after the two hit it off, she closes her shop in the middle of the day to share a drink with him, with the implication being it doesn't stop there. He then takes a taxi and makes a connection with the driver (Joy Barlow), she gives him her card "in case you can use me again", but tells him to call at night, because she works during the day. This is just in the first 20 minutes, and before the steamier scenes with Lauren Bacall, who Bogart would marry in real life three months after filming finished. The chemistry they had translates to the screen, spurred on by memorable lines: This first one, as they compare each other to thoroughbreds: Bogart: "You don't like to be rated yourself." Bacall: "I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?" Bogart: "Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how far you can go." Bacall: "A lot depends on who's in the saddle." After kissing her: Bacall: "I liked that. I'd like more." Before the spin of the roulette wheel: Dealer: "You ready lady?" Bacall: "Yeah, I'm ready." Bogart (softly, over her shoulder): "So am I." And lastly: Bogart: "What's wrong with you?" Bacall: "Nothing you can't fix." There are also all sorts of other playful moments. At one point, Bogart and Bacall carry on a prank telephone conversation with a police officer, which ends with Bogart saying "I can do what? Where? Oh no, I wouldn't like that. Neither would my daughter." In another, Vickers asks, "Is he as cute as you are?", to which the grizzled Bogart replies, "Nobody is." Bogart also brings a smile when he turns up his hat, dons sunglasses, and carries on as an intellectual while trying to get information from a woman in a bookstore (Sonia Darrin). At all turns, Bogart is ready with quick replies, whether he's talking tough, flirting, or joking around, making him the man every guy wishes he could be. And, while a lot of attention is placed on Bogart, Bacall, and Vickers, and rightfully so, the performances from the villains, the mastermind (John Ridgely) and his right-hand man (Bob Steele), are also fantastic. Overall, I find I've got to deduct a little because of the issues with the plot, but still, it's quite a film.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • May 13, 2014
    A smart detective story full of the most exquisite dialogue and with an extremely complex plot that prompts us to try to connect the pieces of the intricate puzzle in our heads, even if it actually does not answer all of the questions (the death of a certain character is left unsolved).
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • May 12, 2013
    Phillip Marlowe gets embroiled in a family's drama, which quickly turns murderous. Everything about this film is perfect. The mystery is compelling and engaging because the characters are always ahead of the audience, which is refreshing in this age when everything but flashing arrows tell modern audiences when the detective encounters a clue. The writing is sharp and funny with lines so good and so right for Bogie that it's impossible to imagine anyone else saying them. For example: Eddie Mars: Is that any of your business? Philip Marlowe: I could make it my business. Eddie Mars: I could make your business mine. Philip Marlowe: Oh, you wouldn't like it. The pay's too small. And there's Bogie and Bacall -- film legends with legendary chemistry -- who sizzle the screen. It's only their talent that makes a rather tepid love story work. I don't see anything profound or socially necessary about The Big Sleep, but films like this can be intellectually engaging and fun. Overall, The Big Sleep is a foundational film and a great time at the movies.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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