The Big Sleep ★★★★★

I collect blondes and bottles too.
-Philip Marlowe

The second film to feature Raymond Chandler's hard boiled detective Philip Marlowe in less then two years, but usually the one that's remembered as Marlowe's earliest incarnation. The first film, Murder, My Sweet, is actually a very good film, but director Edward Dmytryk and star Dick Powell are simply no match for Big Sleep's Howard Hawks and Humphrey Bogart.

Hawks and his screenwriters crafted a film where the dialogue is almost a bigger star then Bogart himself. The give and take between Bogey and everyone in the film is so good that the film is considered a masterpiece even though the plot is so convoluted that if you analyze it too much you realize that the film ends without it being completely clear "who killed who".

There are stories that screenwriters William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett contacted Raymond Chandler directly because they couldn't figure out who the main murderer was in the novel and that Chandler, after looking at this own book, admitted that he wasn't sure himself and left it up to them to do what they wanted. Another account has Howard Hawks contacting Chandler in the middle of shooting the film because the director didn't know who his murderer was and the film was half way done.

The plot really doesn't matter though, because if you take the film as a whole, or look at the individual scenes on their own, it's still the most entertaining piece of cinema you'll ever see. Bogart is the coolest private detective that has ever existed with a clever witty comeback for anyone who dares talk to him while he chain smokes and looks for his next glass of brandy.

Lauren Bacall in what is only her third film, more then holds her own with her sultry voice while her chemistry with her future husband Bogart makes up for the rest. Martha Vickers isn't just good here, but would have easily stolen the film from Bacall if she would have had more screen time. Her character, Carmen Sternwood, is also responsible for one of Bogart's best lines in the film: " She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up."

The film is quintessential film-noir, quintessential Humphrey Bogart and quintessential Howard Hawks. It manages to be a perfect film while having a plot too complex to understand, but like Bogart's Philip Marlowe, it doesn't care if you understand it or not.

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