AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Big Sleep
Director: Howard Hawks (Dir)
Release Date:   31 Aug 1946
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 23 Aug 1946
Production Date:   10 Oct 1944--12 Jan 1945; addl scenes and retakes began 2 Jan 1946
Duration (in mins):   113
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Cast:   Humphrey Bogart (Philip Marlowe)  
    Lauren Bacall (Vivian Rutledge)  
    John Ridgely (Eddie Mars)  
    Martha Vickers (Carmen Sternwood)  
    Dorothy Malone (Bookstore proprietress)  
    Peggy Knudson (Mona Mars)  
    Regis Toomey (Bernie Ohls)  
    Charles Waldron (General Sternwood)  
    Charles D. Brown (Norris, the butler)  
    Bob Steele (Canino)  
    Elisha Cook Jr. (Harry Jones)  
    Louis Jean Heydt (Joe Brody)  
    Sonia Darrin (Agnes)  
    James Flavin (Captain Cronjager)  
    Thomas Jackson (Wilde)  
    Thomas Rafferty (Carol Lundgren)  
    Theodore Von Eltz (Arthur Gwynne Geiger)  
    Dan Wallace (Owen Taylor)  
    Joy Barlowe (Taxicab driver)  
    Forbes Murray (Furtive man)  
    Pete Kooy (Motorcycle officer)  
    Emmett Vogan (Deputy sheriff)  
    Joseph Crehan (Medical examiner)  
    Carole Douglas (Librarian)  
    Jack Chefe (Croupier)  
    Tom Fadden (Sidney)  
    Ben Weldon (Pete)  
    Paul Weber (Eddie Mars's thug)  
    Jack Perry (Eddie Mars's thug)  
    Wally Walker (Eddie Mars's thug)  
    Lorraine Miller (Hat check girl)  
    Shelby Payne (Cigarette girl)  
    Trevor Bardette (Art Huck)  
    Tanis Chandler (Waitress)  
    Deannie Best (Waitress)  

Summary: Los Angeles private detective Philip Marlowe is summoned to the mansion of General Sternwood, a wealthy, aging invalid with two wild young daughters: the predatory, childish Carmen and the divorced Vivian Rutledge. Sternwood explains that Arthur Gwynne Geiger, a rare book dealer, is demanding payment of Carmen's gambling debts. Sternwood adds that earlier, a man named Joe Brody made a similar request, which was handled by ex-bootlegger Sean Regan, who has since disappeared. Although Marlowe advises Sternwood to pay the money, he agrees to look into the matter for him. After he leaves the general, Vivian asks to speak with him. She assumes that Sternwood hired Marlowe to look into Regan's disappearance, but Marlowe reveals nothing. At Geiger's store, Marlowe questions Agnes, the attendant, about rare books, and her confused response convinces him that the store is a cover for some illegal activity. The attractive bookseller across the street confirms his guess, and Marlowe waits at her shop for Geiger to make an appearance. Marlowe follows Geiger to his house, where, after a while, Carmen arrives. Later, Marlowe hears a scream followed by gunshots. Inside the house, Marlowe discovers a drugged Carmen with Geiger's dead body. Marlowe also finds a hidden camera with no film in it and a book containing the names of Geiger's blackmail victims. After Marlowe drives Carmen home, he returns to Geiger's, but in the meantime, the body has been removed. Later, one of Sternwood's cars containing the body of his chauffeur, Owen Taylor, is dredged out of the ocean. That afternoon, Vivian tells Marlowe that blackmailers have demanded $5,000 for a compromising photograph of Carmen taken at Geiger's the previous night. When Marlowe asks if she can pay the money, Vivian says she might be able to get it from Eddie Mars, the gambler whose wife ran off with Regan. Marlowe then returns to Geiger's store, where he sees two men loading Geiger's stock into their car and tails them to Brody's apartment. Later, he learns that Mars owns the house where Geiger was shot. That evening, when Vivian reports that the blackmailers failed to contact her, a skeptical Marlowe drives to Brody's apartment building. Vivian and Agnes are both hiding inside, and Carmen arrives later, intending to shoot Brody. After Marlowe disarms Carmen, Brody admits that he is the blackmailer, but denies that he killed Geiger. Marlowe forces Brody to give the photographic negative to Vivian, who then takes Carmen home. Marlowe explains that Taylor, who was in love with Carmen, shot Geiger and then accuses Brody of killing Taylor. Brody is about to tell Marlowe what information Geiger had on the Sternwoods, when he responds to a knock on the door and is shot. Marlowe catches the killer, Geiger's assistant Carol Lundgren, who believed that Brody murdered Geiger and shot him in retaliation. Now that the murders seem to be solved, Vivian tries to dismiss Marlowe, but he is convinced that Mars knows something about Regan's disappearance. Marlowe's suspicions of Mars increase when Vivian wins a lot of money gambling at Mars's club, only to have it stolen later in what appears to Marlowe to be a phony holdup. When Vivian later tells him that Regan has been found in Mexico, Marlowe believes that she is trying to throw him off Regan's trail. Subsquently, Marlowe learns from Agnes the whereabouts of Mars's wife Mona, who was supposed to have run off with Regan, and drives to the hideout, where he is taken prisoner by Mars's men. Vivian is also hiding out at the house and with her help, Marlowe shoots Mars's hired killer Canino, and they make their escape. Marlowe then lures Mars to Geiger's house and accuses him of blackmailing Vivian to keep Carmen's murder of Regan secret. After Mars is mistakenly killed by his own men, Marlowe tells the police that Mars murdered Regan and privately exacts Vivian's promise that she will send Carmen away where she will be prevented from hurting anyone else. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Howard Hawks Production
Brand Name: A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Howard Hawks (Dir)
  Robert Vreeland (Asst dir)
Producer: Jack L. Warner (Exec prod)
Writer: William Faulkner (Scr)
  Leigh Brackett (Scr)
  Jules Furthman (Scr)
Photography: Sid Hickox (Dir of photog)
  Michael P. Joyce (2d cam)
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl (Art dir)
  Max Parker (Supv art dir)
Film Editor: Christian Nyby (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Fred M. MacLean (Set dec)
  Paul Detlefsen (Matte paintings)
Costumes: Leah Rhodes (Ward)
Music: Leo F. Forbstein (Mus dir)
  Max Steiner (Mus)
Sound: Robert B. Lee (Sd)
  Gerald W. Alexander (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Robert G. Wayne (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Charles David Forrest (Mus mixer)
Special Effects: E. Roy Davidson (Spec eff dir)
  Warren E. Lynch (Spec eff)
  William McGann (Spec eff)
  Willard Van Enger (Spec eff)
  Robert Burks (Spec eff)
Make Up: Perc Westmore (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Eric Stacey (Prod mgr)
Country: United States

Songs: "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine," music and lyrics by Joe Greene, Stanley Kenton and Charles Lawrence.
Source Text: Based on the novel The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (New York, 1939).
Authors: Raymond Chandler

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 31/8/1946 dd/mm/yyyy LP534

PCA NO: 10625
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Film noir
 
Subjects (Major): Blackmail
  Murder
  Private detectives
  Sisters
 
Subjects (Minor): Booksellers and bookselling
  Chauffeurs
  Corpses
  Drugging
  Fathers and daughters
  Flirtation
  Gamblers
  Greenhouses
  Invalids
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Photographs
  Police
  Romance
  Seduction

Note: Both the version of The Big Sleep released in 1946 and the 117 min. version completed in 1945 and restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archives were viewed. The above synopsis was based on the 1946 version. Memos included in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library add the following information about the production: Nina Foch tested for the role of "Carmen." Due to Humphrey Bogart's affair with co-star Lauren Bacall, his marital problems escalated during filming, and his drinking often resulted in his being unable to work. The picture took seventy-six days to film--thirty-four days behind its forty-two day schedule. The film was completed on 12 Jan 1945 and was shown to American servicemen overseas, but was not released in the United States at that time. With the end of World War II, Warners pushed back the release of The Big Sleep in favor of its completed war-themed films, among these films was Confidential Agent (see entry below), which also starred Bacall. After her performance in that film was panned by the critics, agent Charles K. Feldman convinced Jack L. Warner that another failure would ruin Bacall's career. In a letter dated 16 Nov 1945, Feldman wrote Warner that "...if [Bacall] receives the same type of general reviews and criticisms on The Big Sleep , which she definitely will receive unless changes are made, you might lose one of your most important assets. Though the additional scenes will only cost in the neighborhood of probably $25,000 or $50,000, in my opinion this should be done even if the cost should run to $250,000." Feldman advised Warner to "give the girl at least three or four additional scenes with Bogart of the insolent and provocative nature that she had in To Have and Have Not ."
       On 2 Jan 1946, HR reported that Hawks, Bogart and Bacall were shooting added scenes, and that much of the script had been rewritten. As the studio did not want to release a longer film, scenes were cut from the 1945 version. Among the scenes cut were one in which "Philip Marlowe" searches the location of "Geiger's" murder. Another sequence, in which Marlowe brings the drugged "Carmen" home and advises the butler to give her an alibi, was replaced with a similar scene during which Marlowe gives the same advice to "Vivian," thus allowing the characters to establish romantic potential. The longest cut was of a nine-minute sequence in which Marlowe explains the series of murders to suspicious police detective "Cronjager" and district attorney "Wilde." (Both of these roles were cut from the 1946 release.) In the 1945 print, a short scene in which Vivian, wearing an unbecoming hat with a veil, meets Marlowe at his office and pays him off, was replaced by a longer, more sensual encounter between them at a nightclub during which they trade double entendres about horse racing. In a brief scene in the 1946 version, Carmen is waiting for Marlowe at his apartment when he returns from taking Vivian home. This substituted for the 1945 scene in which Wilde asks Marlowe to drop the Sternwood case. Finally, the climactic scene in "Eddie Mars's" hideout was rewritten to emphasize the character of Vivian. In this sequence, Eddie Mars's wife is performed by Peggy Knudson, rather than Patricia Clarke, who played the role in the 1945 version. Bacall received some favorable notices for her performance, although the NYT commented that "she still hasn't learned to act." Three months after the film was finished, Bacall and Bogart were married.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Warner Bros. paid $10,000 for the rights to Raymond Chandler's novel. Many critics commented on the confusing plot of the film, especially the fact that the murderer of the "Sternwood's" chauffeur is never clearly identified. [This was true even in the 1945 version with its extended explanation in Wilde's office.] Modern sources blame these problems in part on the fact that co-writers Leigh Brackett and William Faulkner wrote alternate sections of the script and left the project as soon as they turned in the final draft. Jules Furthman was then called in to cut and condense their work. Hawks also rewrote several scenes. In an interview, Hawks said, "I never figured out what was going on....After that got by, I said, 'I'm never going to worry about being logical again.'" In a modern interview, Hawks said that the PCA officials "read the script and they didn't care for the end Chandler wrote. I said, 'Why don't you suggest a better one?' And they did. It was a lot more violent, it was everything I wanted, and I made it and was very happy about it." In a 27 Sep 1944 letter to Jack Warner, included in the MPAA/PCA file on the film, PCA head Joseph I. Breen objected to the script's "suggestion that Carmen is being blackmailed by means of some nude or lewd photographs." However, the suggestion is present in the released film. Modern sources credit Chuck Hansen as assistant director. Chandler's novel also provided the source for a 1978 United Artists film The Big Sleep which was set in London and starred Robert Mitchum. Much of the film was parodied in Larry Gelbart's play City of Angels . For information on additional films featuring the character of Philip Marlowe, please see entry below for Murder, My Sweet

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   17 Aug 1946.   
Daily Variety   13 Aug 46   p. 3.
Film Daily   14 Aug 46   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Oct 44   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jan 46   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Aug 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 46   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 Dec 44   p. 2230.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   3 Aug 46   p. 3126.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   17 Aug 46   p. 3149.
New York Times   24 Aug 46   p. 6.
Variety   14 Aug 46   p. 10.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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