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The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep(1946)

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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 January 12, 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 , 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 November 16, 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 January 2, 1946, Hollywood Reporter 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 New York Times 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 September 27, 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 for Murder, My Sweet.