Friday, August 2, 2013


Watched THE BIG SLEEP tonight (I guess last night by now) not only because it's one of my favorite films but because besides Bogie and Bacall it has one of my alltime favorite Hollywood actresses in it: Martha Vickers. She plays Lauren Bacall's character's little sister who spends most of her screen time "high" in a way only an old Hollywood movie could portray, more sex kitten then junkie. It's a tour de force performance, eternally memorable.

And this movie also showcases the Bacall I fell in loved with as a kid (not the older one I met decades later) and the Bogie, and it also includes a terrific scene between Bogie and Dorothy Malone. And a couple of inimitable scenes with the great Elijah Cook. Co-written with William Faulkner from a Raymond Chandler story, I think it may be Faulkner's only actual screen credit, though he contributed to other films I believe.

Just watching the first fifteen minutes of the flick the dialogue was so quick and witty and perceptive and intelligent I was thinking it may be the best first fifteen minutes of any film, but then I thought of several others. It's still up there near the top. The old complaint is that the screenplay, with three writers getting credit and even more supposedly contributing, was so confusing Bogie and director Howard Hawks argued over what the plot actually was.

But besides seeming like a few movies in one (two extra scenes were added post production between Bogie and Bacall because they were hot and the studio wanted more steam between them (one office scene and one restaurant/bar scene that do seem a bit gratuitous but well worth it)) I always found it not that difficult to follow. But maybe that's because I've seen it now so many times it's more like an old favorite song you listen to repeatedly than  movie event. If you get the chance check or re-check it out.


-K- said...

It's a little too late in the night for me to go into detail but I really prefer "Key Largo" over "The Big Sleep." The characters of both Bogart and Bacall's in KL are so well developed and so well acted that they both seem wasted in the tough guy/tough broad roles they played earlier.

Plus, its a much better directed movie. The atmosphere John Houston created in a much more limited setting beats what what Howard Hawks did and he had much more to work with; every scene, to me, seemed like a Hollywood sound stage.

But I also have to admit that "Key Largo" is relatively new experience for me. Prior to this year, I gave it little notice as it seemed like just a stagey potboiler.

I give, once again, all praise to Turner Classic Movies.

richard lopez said...

hi michael:

the plot got so thick that even faulkner, when asked what the story was about, confessed he didn't know.

great movie. martha vickers' performance is a marvel of the art.

JenW said...

Must watch The Big Sleep again. Key Largo is at the top of my all time fav list but I love The African Queen even more than Casablanca! I like the way Lauren Bacall traveled to Africa with Bogie when it was filmed. I never understood why a woman would send a man she loves off for weeks/months when it's possible to join him. That's just stupid. I bet Bacall was grateful for that time especially when their time together was cut so short. Call me a romantic....

Lally said...

K, I too came to appreciate KEY LARGO better later in life. Especially the performances, especially Claire Trevor's. But I have to admit it was the earlier movies with Bogie that made me fall in love with the young Lauren Bacall. And hi to you Richard and amen to Vickers. Jen, I totally dig THE AFRICAN QUEEN and appreciate how difficult it was to make and to make work in such a tough location and with such a limited story and cast of characters. A true tour de force. But...CASABLANCA is still higher on my list. Maybe it's being born at the start of "the war" that does it but every time I watch it I find more to appreciate (despite the obvious opening for charges of "racism" though"Sam"is treated better than many white sidekicks in Hollywood movies of the time, i.e. the term "boy" was used for any male help including old white characters etc. though admittedly not as much)