The Big Sleep

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“The Big Sleep” is a thriller film of 1946 directed by Howard Hawks and based on the novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler. The film is known to be one of the most famous and influential noir film of his era.

The protagonist of the film is the private detective Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart, who is hired by the wealthy General Sternwood to solve a blackmail involving his young daughter Carmen. During the investigation, Marlowe finds himself embroiled in a web of murder, corruption and betrayal involving a series of enigmatic and dangerous characters.

One of the distinguishing features of the film is the dark atmosphere and the intricate plot that keeps the viewer constantly on the edge. The story is full of twists and suspense, with sharp dialogue and a dark and corrupt setting that represents the dark side of Los Angeles.

Also, “The Big Sleep” is famous for its protagonists, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Bacall plays Vivian Sternwood, General Sternwood’s eldest daughter, and her screen presence alongside Bogart creates strong sexual tension and a magnetic dynamic.

The film is considered a classic of the noir genre and has had a lasting impact on cinema. Howard Hawks’ direction, gripping screenplay and memorable performances help make it one of the cornerstones of the genre. “The Big Sleep” became a benchmark for many subsequent films in the noir genre and established Humphrey Bogart as one of the great performers of American cinema.

Although the film’s plot is complex and sometimes ambiguous, “The Big Sleep” remains a cinematic work of great charm, which continues to be appreciated by lovers of the noir genre and classic cinema.

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Plot

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The plot of “The Big Sleep” revolves around the investigation of private detective Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart. Marlowe is hired by wealthy General Sternwood to solve a blackmail case involving his daughter Carmen, a troubled young woman.

As Marlowe begins to investigate the case, he immerses himself in a dark and corrupt world populated by ambiguous and dangerous characters. During his investigation, he discovers that blackmail is intertwined with a series of seemingly unrelated murders, and finds himself drawn into a web of deception, betrayal and secrets.

Marlowe runs into Vivian Sternwood, the general’s eldest daughter, played by Lauren Bacall. Vivian is a sophisticated and mysterious woman who seems to be hiding many secrets. A strong attraction and a complex dynamic develop between Marlowe and Vivian, adding tension to the plot.

As Marlowe continues his investigation, he uncovers a maze of connections between the characters involved, including the evil Eddie Mars, a crime boss played by John Ridgely, and his army of henchmen. Marlowe has to deal with threats, bribery attempts and even an assassination attempt to get to the truth.

The story of “The Big Sleep” is full of twists and turns and intricate situations, involving characters who seem to have many things to hide. The story takes place in a gloomy and oppressive atmosphere, reflecting the dark side of 1940s society and morals.

Over the course of the film, Marlowe slowly unravels the truth behind the blackmail and murders, but ultimately solving the case is not the main plot element. “The Big Sleep” is more about the noir atmosphere, sharp dialogues and complex relationships between the characters, than about solving the mysteries that arise along the way.

The plot can be complex and ambiguous, with many subplots and intricate details, but this contributes to the film’s gripping atmosphere and its reputation as a classic of the noir genre.

Movie Characters

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Here are some of the key characters featured in the movie “The Big Sleep”:

  1. Philip Marlowe (played by Humphrey Bogart): The protagonist of the film, is a tough and cynical private detective, known for his intelligence and cunning in solving complicated cases.
  2. Vivian Sternwood (played by Lauren Bacall): General Sternwood’s eldest daughter. She is a sophisticated and mysterious woman who is involved in a series of secrets and intrigues. Vivian develops a strong attraction to Marlowe and clashes with him frequently.
  3. Carmen Sternwood (played by Martha Vickers): General Sternwood’s troubled young daughter. She is a woman with eccentric and unpredictable ways, involved in a blackmail case that leads Marlowe to investigate.
  4. General Sternwood (portrayed by Charles Waldron): A wealthy elderly patriarch, father of Vivian and Carmen Sternwood. He hires Marlowe to solve the blackmail case involving his daughter Carmen.
  5. Eddie Mars (portrayed by John Ridgely): A dangerous crime boss involved in the mysteries surrounding the case. Has an ambiguous relationship with Vivian Sternwood.
  6. Agnes (played by Sonia Darrin): Marlowe’s secretary, who helps him in his investigation and provides valuable information.

These are just some of the main characters in the film “The Big Sleep”. The film is known for the complexity of the secondary characters and for the intertwining of relationships and secrets involving all the characters.

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Production

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“The Big Sleep” was produced by Warner Bros. Pictures and the production was led by Howard Hawks, who also directed the film. Hawks was known for his talent for directing films in various genres, including noir, western and comedy.

The screenplay for the film was written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, ‘The Big Sleep’. The collaboration between these writers resulted in the creation of an intricate plot and sharp dialogues, typical of the noir genre.

The cinematography of the film was handled by Sidney Hickox, who helped create the dark and suggestive atmosphere through the use of light and shadow. The soundtrack was composed by Max Steiner, who helped underline the intensity of the scenes and the noir atmosphere of the film.

The cast of the film was headed by Humphrey Bogart, one of the greatest actors of his time, who plays the title role Philip Marlowe. Lauren Bacall, Bogart’s wife at the time, plays the role of Vivian Sternwood, adding a strong screen presence and palpable chemistry with Bogart.

The production of the film took place in the aftermath of World War II, and “The Big Sleep” reflects the atmosphere of uncertainty and moral corruption of the time. The film was shot at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California and various locations in Los Angeles.

“The Big Sleep” was released in theaters in 1946 and was well received by critics. The film was successful at the box office and helped solidify the noir genre as one of the most popular with audiences. Today it is considered one of the best film noirs ever made and a classic of American cinema.

Distribution and Reception

“The Big Sleep” was released in theaters on August 23, 1946 by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film received good reception from both critics and audiences.

Critically, the film was praised for its complex and gripping storyline, immersive noir atmosphere, and memorable performances. In particular, Humphrey Bogart was praised for his portrayal of Philip Marlowe, who helped define the image of the tough and cynical private eye in cinema.

Despite its critical success, ‘The Big Sleep’ did not achieve great initial commercial success. Nonetheless, the film has grown into a cult following over the years, acquiring an ever-growing audience and a reputation as a masterpiece of the noir genre.

The work greatly influenced the development of the noir genre and influenced many subsequent directors and writers. Its dark atmosphere and intricate plot became hallmarks of many later noir films.

“The Big Sleep” was included in the American Film Institute’s “100 Greatest American Films of All Time” list, placing 31st in its 1998 version and 23rd in its 2007 review.

The actor couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who worked together in several films, including “The Big Sleep”, were especially popular with the audience and became one of the unforgettable film duos of the time.

In summary, “The Big Sleep” achieved a good critical reception upon its release and, over the years, has become a cult film appreciated for its impact on the noir genre and for the performances of Bogart and Bacall.

Style

The style of “The Big Sleep” is typical of the noir genre, characterized by a dark atmosphere, a complex narrative and a number of distinctive elements that contribute to its recognition.

One of the main features of the film style is the effective use of light and shadow, known as chiaroscuro. The scenes are often lit selectively, creating intense contrasts between areas of light and areas of shadow, which accentuate the mysterious and dramatic atmosphere of the film.

Furthermore, the film features a series of suggestive shots, which emphasize the alienation and the loneliness of the characters. The shots are often angled to highlight the architecture of the environments and create a sense of claustrophobia and oppression.

The complex plot, typical of the noir genre, is characterized by a series of twists, intrigues and secrets involving the characters. The dialogues are sharp and full of innuendo, helping to build tension and gradually unraveling the tangled plot.

Furthermore, the film features a slow and methodical pace, which allows the audience to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the dark and corrupted world that the film represents. The skillful use of suspense and dramatic pauses help keep the viewer’s attention throughout the narrative.

Finally, the chemistry between the protagonists, especially Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, adds an element of seduction and charm to the story. Their intense and magnetic relationship is reflected in the acting and the way the characters interact on screen.

The style of “The Big Sleep” is based on the use of light and shadow, suggestive shots, complex plot and sharp dialogues. These elements help create a gripping noir atmosphere characteristic of the film.

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Director

Howard-Hawks

The director of “The Big Sleep” is Howard Hawks. Born May 30, 1896, Hawks was one of the most influential directors of Hollywood’s classic period. He has directed blockbuster films in several genres, including noir, western, the comedy and the drama.

Hawks was known for his authorial style and his ability to masterfully direct different genres of cinema. He is regarded as a versatile and innovative filmmaker, with a knack for creating compelling stories and memorable characters.

In the specific case of “The Big Sleep”, Hawks has been able to capture the essence of the noir genre, creating a dark and intriguing atmosphere. He worked closely with his actors, encouraging their spontaneity and creating an authentic dynamic between them.

Howard Hawks has demonstrated great mastery in directing actors, resulting in memorable performances from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, as well as the rest of the cast. He knew how to handle the complexity of the plot and make each scene compelling, maintaining an engaging pace throughout the film.

His artistic vision and technical prowess made “The Big Sleep” one of his most celebrated and influential films. His ability to balance action, mystery and drama contributed to the success of the film and its reputation as a classic of film noir.

Howard Hawks left a lasting imprint on the film industry, influencing generations of subsequent filmmakers. His versatility and knack for creating engaging and enduring films have made him one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema.

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