The Big Sleep | Chicago Reader

The Big Sleep

Finished in early 1945, Howard Hawks's original remodeling of the Raymond Chandler mystery is in fact two minutes shorter than the version released more than a year later, but it contains 18 minutes of footage Hawks discarded to make room for new scenes. The additions, by an uncredited Philip Epstein, revved up the sparring between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (including their celebrated double entendres about racehorses) and created a greater feeling of intimacy between them. But the prerelease version, written by Leigh Brackett, William Faulkner, and Jules Furthman, actually enables one to follow the labyrinthine plot; it even explains who killed the chauffeur. It still doesn't qualify as major Hawks, but it's very enjoyable on its own terms. The impressive cast includes Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, and the unforgettable Elisha Cook Jr.

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