The Big Sleep

So, the stardust has settled and we’ve packed away our glad rags for another year. What does the 2013-14 FAFTAs year hold? Are we all determined not to let Di win another FAFTA ever newly inspired to screen the best films we possibly can? I hope so!

big sleepHaving swept the board at the 2013 FAFTAs, Comrade Smith, D. set a high standard with her latest film choice, Howard Hawks’ classic The Big Sleep. This was our first return to film noir since the dark and dirty Double Indemnity, and it certainly delivered the killer lines in the same way. The film was based on a book of the same name by film noir stalwart Raymond Chandler (who also co-wrote Double Indemnity), and featured Chandler’s most famous protagonist, private ‘dick’ Philip Marlowe.

In fact, the zippy dialogue and chemistry between the film’s stars, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are famously more memorable than the plot, and certainly easier to follow. As recently-deceased legendary US film critic Roger Ebert so eloquently put it, “ “The Big Sleep” is a lust story with a plot about a lot of other things.” (You can find the rest of his review here – it’s well worth checking out) Valuable post-film chin-stroking time was spent trying to work out just who killed who and why, but to no avail. But fear not, comrades, we should not feel disheartened. When the scriptwriters realised they could not work out who had committed one of the murders they contacted Chandler to find out. He told them the answer was in the book, but was later forced to admit that having looked at the book he had no idea either!

One bold blogger has tried to represent the connections between the characters in a diagram, but the fact that some of the arrows lead to a question mark leads me to believe that no one will ever work it out. I do like the inference that Mars’ henchmen were in a gay relationship though.

Two versions of the film were actually made, but in the first version the chemistry between the 2 leads was apparently lacking so additional scenes were filmed with specially written racy dialogue, including an innuendo-filled conversation about horse racing. This and several other quotes from the film are already in contention for next year’s Chairman Mao! Counteracting these positive additions was the fact that some scenes which helped viewers to comprehend the plot were cut, leading to the confusing story that is known and loved today.

The film was also re-made in 1978 by Michael Winner, starring Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles and featured none other than Joan Collins as Agnes (the woman from the book shop)!

The Big Sleep was the second of four films Bogart and Bacall made together. The pair started their affair on the set of the first film, when Bogart was 44 and Bacall just 19 years old. During the filming of The Big Sleep Bogart was in the process of divorcing his wife. ‘Bogie’ went on to marry Bacall almost immediately after his divorce; they had 2 children together and remained married until his death.

Lauren Bacall is still alive today, and was lucky enough to meet Comrade Di Smith on a boat somewhere in the recent past. I’m sure she still thinks of it often and fondly.

To finish, some random trivia:

  • Humprey Bogart was born in 1899 – 18-frickin-99! Queen Victoria was still alive!!!
  • Humphrey Bogart featured in 2 Bugs Bunny cartoons.
  • Bogart and Bacall were founder members of the original Rat Pack, alongside Frank Sinatra, David Niven and other big stars of the era. Bacall was allegedly the one who coined the phrase.
  • You can listen to music by The Big Sleep, a New York-based psychedelic rock band.
  • You can stay at The Big Sleep Hotel in the exciting towns of Cardiff, Cheltenham and Eastbourne.

Until next time, at a new south London location.

Becca xx


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