Bogart plays a private detective Phillip Marlowe hired by General Sternwood to settle a problem with some gambling debts one of his daughters (Lauren Bacall) has accrued. Carmen (Bacall) wants to stop him. She suspects that what her father really wants is to find Sean Regan, who vanished in mysterious circumstances a month earlier. From there on in the plot thickens to involve a bookseller, some blackmail regarding indecent photos of the younger Sternwood daughter, a very flirtatious scene in the bookshop and implied sex, a casino belonging to Eddie Mars, several visits to a house where the body of the bookseller Joe Geiger is found, a beating for Bogart, some resolution of plot issues, Bogart and Bacall suddenly falling in love and the death of Eddie Mars, shot by his own men when Bogie tricks him into going outside. All good film noir stuff.
The film was made during the war- there are a few wartime moments such as a female taxi driver and poster of FDR- but its release was delayed until 1946 so the studios could rush release all the war films they'd made. It was criticised on release for being difficult to follow and confusing. Marlowe sometimes makes deductions that aren't shared with the audience. The death of chauffeur Owen Taylor is unexplained. It's not especially confusing but there is a lot of back and forth, people going to and from places rapidly. There's little character development, it is all plot. And it does look old- really old. But Bogart and Bacall are superb, the lighting is dramatic, there's a grittiness about it that appeals and script is witty and fresh. Everyone, Bogart especially, smokes constantly.
A couple of pop culture things leapt out. Firstly the line 'now wait a minute, you better talk to my mother', taken by Coldcut, who have been posted here several times this week now, and used in their 1987 remix of Eric B and Rakim's Paid In Full. Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness Mix) was a pioneering example of the art of the remix, a record that gave Eric and Rakim a hit, spliced in vocals from a recent hit from Ofra Haza and introduced the world to the much used 'This is a journey into sound...' sample.
Paid In Full (Seven Minutes Of Madness Mix)
When Marlowe (Bogart) visits Eddie Mars' casino Vivian (Bacall) is singing (backed by The Williams Brothers including Andy). The song is And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine, a jazz song written by Stan Kenton. One of the lines she sings refers to a girl being 'a sad tomato'- the lines go 'she's a sad tomato/she's a busted valentine'.
In 1994 Michael Stipe would use the same line in R.E.M.'s Crush With Eyeliner, a line that has always jumped out at me as being such an odd expression. I've no idea if Stipe got it from The Big Sleep or from a different version of the song but it seems reasonable to assume he watched the film late night on tour in a hotel room. Stipe follows it with 'she's three miles of bad road'.
Finally, as this picture shows, the younger of the two Sternwood girls must have been one of the inspirations for the look Ridley Scott gave Sean Young in Blade Runner (Martha Vickers, second right).
That's your lot from The Big Sleep. Next stop for me is to watch The Maltese Falcon, a film and book that from memory are far more confusing and difficult to follow than The Big Sleep.