26 June 2010

The Big Sleep (preview)

The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep, the quintessential film noir, was released in 1946, though a preview version from 1945 still exists. The film stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall; they first appeared together in To Have & Have Not, also directed by Hawks. The supporting cast includes Elisha Cook, who previously appeared with Bogart in The Maltese Falcon. Bogart and Bacall were married soon after filming The Big Sleep, and it was Bacall's agent who asked the producer to shoot several alternate scenes for the 1946 version.

The most apparent consequence of the re-shoots is that the relationship between Bogart and Bacall is intensified. They have two scenes together, in a restaurant and in Bacall's bedroom, which were filmed especially for the 1946 version. The dialogue in these scenes includes most of the innuendoes for which the film has become famous. A sequence in which Bacall's sister attempts to seduce Bogart was also added, and the scene in which Bacall helps Bogart escape was re-shot.

The 1945 version contains two expositional sequences which were subsequently removed: Bogart meeting the District Attorney, and a veiled Bacall visiting Bogart's office. The plot is equally complex and incomprehensible in both versions, though in the 1946 version this is less noticeable because the mystery is overshadowed by the romance between Bogart and Bacall. In the 1945 version, the romance is less developed, leaving the whodunnit narrative as the main focus, and therefore the convoluted exposition is more distracting.

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