Film & Water #41 – The Big Sleep


Episode 41: THE BIG SLEEP

Rob welcomes Doctor G, Man of Nerdology to discuss another great Humphrey Bogart classic, 1946’s THE BIG SLEEP! Let’s talk about racehorses!

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14 responses to “Film & Water #41 – The Big Sleep

  1. When I was submitting my list of films to Rob, I knew I wanted to include at least one Bogie movie. I considered The Big Sleep. But then I became worried that Rob might ask me to explain the plot and frankly I can’t. And every time it is on TCM I DVR it and every time I say ‘this time I’ll follow it’. But usually an hour in, the Gordian Knot of this movie’s plot becomes to intricate and I decide to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    I love the movie. So I am glad that it was covered.

    As you say, Bogie is incredible in this movie. He dominates every scene, even when beaten to a pulp and just hanging on.

    But you know a movie is special when Lauren Bacall might not be the most stunning woman in the movie. Now Bacall is otherworldly … beautiful, sultry, mysterious, irresistible. That said, Martha Vickers will melt your eyeballs. She is completely magnetic, just an unbelievably desirable woman. The way she bites her thumb while looking out from under her eyebrows … you know she is poison.

    And Dorothy Malone! She might be the most beautiful of them all. She’s a sneaky beauty – coy enough to think a loser like me might have a shot but smoking enough to know I never have a chance.

    I always feel bad for Elisha Cook, forced to drink poison to kill himself, a loser on the periphery of a murder plot bigger than he was. He’ll always be the gunsel Wilmer from Maltese Falcon but here he is pretty pathetic.

    Anyways, even if I can’t explain it, this is a brilliant movie. Thanks for the coverage!

    1. Thanks Anj! Yeah, this movie is brimming with super hot women, bumping right up against the edge of what the Hayes Code allowed. It’s really remarkable.

      Sometime I want to discuss Bogie in BATTLE CIRCUS, where he plays a doctor at a MASH unit during the Korean War. Two things I like in one place!

      1. I saw that once on WTBS, back when it was still a superstation. Bought the dvd from the Warner Archive, when it was released. It’s amazing to consider how close on the heels of the war that one was.

        My first Bogie and still one of my favorites is The Caine Mutiny. I saw that on a Saturday afternoon, on local tv, when I was a pre-teen and was mesmerized by it. It factored into a history lecture, when I was in college, where the professor, who had a strange interpretation of the 50s and 60s, offered it as an example of how even film had to uphold authority and the status quo, by citing how Jose Ferrer calls out Fred MacMurray and the other mutineers on their lack of courage, after he has acquitted them at the court martial. Watching the film after serving as a naval officer, I could see that the professor got it all wrong, as Ferrer is attacking them for their cowardice and failures as leaders, especially after Queeg comes to them for help, in his own way (which in itself was a powerful scene).

        Sahara is another good war film, with Bogie.

        1. I love Caine Mutiny. To me, Ferrer steals the movie.
          That last scene when he chastises the Caine’s crew and calls out MacMurray is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.

          And yes, Sahara is great!

          1. One of my favorite bits in the film is Bogie playing with the ball bearings, swiveling them in his hand. A year or two after seeing the film, I saw the Jerry Lewis movie, Don’t Give Up The Ship, where he is a naval officer who was the last person in charge of a missing destroyer. there is a scene later in the film, when he is before a committee (chaired by Gail “Mr Mooney” Gordin) and Lewis looks down into an ash tray and there are the ball bearings. he picks them up and starts swiveling them in his hand, like Bogart. I immediately started laughing, as I recognized the reference.

  2. Elisha Cook was indeed Kirk’s lawyer in the TOS episode “Court-Martial”. The last thing I remember seeing him in was as a morgue attendant in Blacula. Yes, Blackula. From The Maltese Falcon The Big Sleep to Blacula. Sigh.

    With all the horse double entendres in this film, this is the perfect movie for Kentucky Derby Week! :-)

    Great discussion, fellas!


    1. Yeah we could do a whole show on Elisha Cook, he had such a great career. He has a scene in an obscure film noir called PHANTOM LADY (no relation to the Freedom Fighter) that has to be seen to be believed. He was also in Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING. I bet the guy had some serious stories.

  3. I just returned from attending the TCM Film Festival last week where they screened another very different & very good interpretation of Phillip Marlowe: The Long Goodbye (1973; Dir: Robert Altman) with Elliott Gould. It’s definitely not Bogie but worth checking out.
    I was there for Alec Baldwin’s hr long interview with Gould, which was recorded for Baldwin’s podcast.

    Anyone who is a true fan of Bogie & Bacall should come to Ohio and visit Malabar Farm. Malabar was the home of Pulitzer Prize winning author & conservationist Louis Bromfield. He spent some time in Hollywood as a screenwriter and became friends with many of the era’s top stars, especially Bogie. In 1945, Bogie and Bacall were married at Malabar Farm (with Bromfield serving as Best Man). Today, Malabar is a state park & working farm open to the public. You can go into the main house and see where Bogie and the now Mrs. Bogie spent their honeymoon. A few years ago Stephen Bogart and Tyrone Power Jr visited Malabar for a fundraiser:

      1. Rob:

        I have an extra TCM Film Fest program & schedule book. They’re yours if you’d like to see what all goes on. An unexpected highlight was attending a screening of Bambi with an appearance by Donnie Dunagan – the actual voice of Bambi! He’s now an 80 yr old former Marine drill sargent!

        1. That sounds awesome! Dunagan is also a Frankenstein! He played the son of The Son of Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) in the 1939 Universal classic with Karloff and Lugosi!


  4. There’s a funny story about Leigh Brackett. When George Lucas got in contact with her to write Empire, he asked if she had written any screenplays. She replied yes, citing Rio Lobo and The Big Sleep. Lucas replied, “You’re that Leigh Brackett?” He had reached out to her because he enjoyed her planetary romances and didn’t realize she was one of the screenwriters of one of the seminal noir movies.

    On a related note, when I first saw the Cohen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski, I couldn’t figure out what the heck is going on. Then, I tried it again, on dvd, and watched the interview with the Cohen’s, where they talked about The Big Sleep and then I understood. I hadn’t seen the film yet; but, I was familiar with Marlowe and his getting hit on the head, and the confusing nature of The Big Sleep. from that point on, I “got” the film.

  5. The Golden Age of Hollywood is one of the holes in my cinema knowledge, but you’re making me want to fill it sooner than later.

  6. I really need to see this movie again. I only watched it once and got hung up on the plot not making sense. I didn’t dislike it but I knew I liked Maltese Falcon exponentially more and always opted to rewatch that one from that point on. Being older now and appreciating things like The Big Lebowski where the plot isn’t actually the point I may be able to enjoy it more now.

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