From the Cinefile: The Big Sleep

It’s hard to picture Humphrey Bogart as the bad guy, but that is how that famous actor got his start—from gangsters to trigger happy outlaws, he played plenty of villains. But the classic Bogart persona is the one everyone remembers. The Big Sleep is one of the best Bogart movies. His character in that, like in every other, is a witty tough guy who always sees through lies and somehow always gets the best of gun toting criminals. The story is interesting, if a little bit chaotic. It’s one of those movies where you know exactly what is going on, but afterword you just can’t quite tell your friends what happened. In fact, if anyone can sufficiently explain it without any preparation, I’ll eat my hat. English students who have studied stream of consciousness writers might be surprised to recognize William Faulkner as the screenwriter of this movie. This dark mystery rings quite a different note from The Bear or A Rose for Emily. In the 1940’s people were tired of the escapist films of the depression era, and a genre of movies that was very macabre called Film Noir rose in popularity. That is the kind of script Faulkner wrote, so although the plot is convoluted, you can bet that both the movie and its hero are dark, you can bet there’s the classic femme fatale, and you can bet plenty of people die. Bogart and Bacall make an excellent pair, as always. Lauren Bacall’s first role actually had her starring with Bogart in To Have and Have Not, where she made an impression on audiences (and on Bogart himself) with her sultry looks. The chemistry the two had together led to other pictures like this one. The two banter about flirtatious dialogue amidst the search for the blackmailer of Bacall’s sister and a quest for a mysterious man called Geiger—until he turns up dead of course. Like most Film Noir, the picture is dark with high contrast between black and white, and as usual with a Bogart movie, a thick layer of smoke adds an eerie atmosphere to the set. Really, it’s just one of those sweet film noir mysteries that came out of the forties’.