#77 The Big Sleep

Watched: January 22 2017

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers

Year: 1946

Runtime: 1h 54min

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Philip Marlowe is back, this time portrayed by (the not very tall, but oh so charming) Humphrey Bogart. Entering the Sternwood residence for an appointment with General Sternwood, he is immediately met by a Dame in the making – young miss Carmen Sternwood (Vickers), who tries to sit on his lap while he is still standing.

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Despite Carmen’s best efforts, General Sternwood is the first member of the family to have our hero undress

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Carmen has gambling debts and her father, the General, is being blackmailed by a man named Geiger. He hires Marlowe to clear everything up, and on his way out, the detective is summoned to the chambers of the older Sternwood daughter, Mrs Vivian Rutledge (Bacall), who is very interested in what exactly Marlowe has been hired to do. The two start measuring each other up (both figuratively and literally) and exchange quips.

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“She has all the usual vices, besides those she’s invented for herself”

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Marlowe starts his investigation in the usual way which comes complete with diagrams on page 47 of how to be a detective in 10 easy lessons correspondent school textbook. That is, he starts snooping around Geiger’s bookshop which he quickly discovers is a front for something else, although he strikes out with the lady working there. He has better luck with the saucy bookseller from across the street, and spends his afternoon with her sharing a drink.

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Yet another great example of how removing glasses and letting one’s hair down transforms a “plain,” bookish girl into an absolute stunner.

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Marlowe follows Geiger and stakes out his house. After a shot and a scream, he enters to find Geiger dead, a hidden camera, and a very drugged out Carmen in a near catatonic state. He takes the girl home, exchanges more banter with her older sister, and returns to the crime scene only to find dead Mr Geiger gone. The plot is very much thickening.

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Also thickening is the sexual tension between the two stars

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To sort out this mess, Marlowe and Rutledge (who’s divorced, by the way, so their relationship is completely on the up-and-up) have to work together. There are more dead bodies, more blackmail, more Dames and other cool women (such as Marlowe’s taxi driver), shady characters, quips and banter, silly henchmen, a fairly complicated plot (but great scenes, so it doesn’t really matter), and Humphrey Bogart being supercool.

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This is a man completely unaffected by having a gun pointed at him. Though Bacall doesn’t seem too perturbed either, to give her her due.

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There are beautiful clothes, sassy dialogue, and amazing characters portrayed by iconic stars. There’s also murder, intrigue, loose sexual morals, and an infamous restaurant scene we have no idea how got past the censors. It’s a classic for a reason and if you haven’t already checked this one out, you should! We loved it.

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Serious question though: how extremely innocent do you have to be not to read the subtext of this scene?

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What we learned: men in the 1940s were physically unable to see past a pair of glasses on a pretty girl. Also, sometimes personal chemistry works equally well on screen as in real life.

Next time: The Killers (1946)

#67 Murder, My Sweet

Watched: December 18 2016

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Starring: Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger, Mike Mazurki

Year: 1944

Runtime: 1h 35min

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We continue our sordid Noir journey with our first encounter with Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s private detective who’s made numerous film and TV appearances. In Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet, we open with his interrogation for murder as he recounts the events leading up to his arrest.

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For once, it doesn’t start with a Dame, but with a strong simpleton of a man

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A man walks into his office and what a man! Legs up to here and strong as a bull. Moose Malloy (Mazurki) is his name and of course, he’s looking for a Dame. Velma. A redhead. She used to sing. Marlowe (Powell) takes on the case and they go out looking for her. Although finding a girl eight years later isn’t done in a night.

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A bar is never the wrong place to start looking for lost Dames

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It doesn’t take long for Marlowe to be approached by two more clients, one of whom gets himself killed and Marlowe knocked out within hours of hiring him. Luckily he paid in advance. He hires the detective to act as backup while trying to buy back a priceless jade necklace from some robbers, but the deal goes horribly wrong.

Then, finally, a Dame walks into his office.

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The glasses exclude her from being a real romantic interest. Luckily for Marlowe, they were just a disguise.

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Reporter Allison, real name Ann Grayle (Shirley), tries to get information about the jade and when he sees through her ruse, she admits that the necklace was worn by her stepmother when it was stolen. Marlowe goes to investigate and meets the stepmom (Trevor). And she’s a real Dame! Not much older than her stepdaughter, she puts the moves on Marlowe and plays the victim quite well.

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She plays the seductress even better

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From then on the plot thickens. Marlowe is knocked out, threatened with guns and fists, drugged and put in a very amusing dream sequence. He also kisses all the dames and hatches all the plots in order to satisfy those clients he can and bring justice to those he cannot. All the while, his amazing internal dialogue narrates his actions. The similes! The quips! The banter! We need to start talking more Noirish in our daily lives.

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He’s come a long way since Footlight Parade. Though somehow not so far since Dames

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Admittedly, taking the juvenile from all those Busby Berkeley musicals seriously as a hard boiled detective was a bit difficult at first, but he does actually pull it off. That being said, we’re very much looking forward to Humphrey Bogart’s Marlowe in the upcoming The Big Sleep, which is an old favourite of ours. Murder, my Sweet was very good and entertaining though, and we’re very excited about all the Film Noir in this part of the list. Now we just need to practice our banter.

What we learned: stay away from Dames! Also, we need to read more Raymond Chandler.

Next time: Brief Encounter (1945)