From the Chicago Reader, June 20, 1997. — J.R.
The Big Sleep
Rating **** Masterpiece
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman
With Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Pat Clark, Regis Toomey, Charles Waldron, Sonia Darrin, and Elisha Cook Jr.
For all its reputation as a classic, and despite the greatness of Howard Hawks as a filmmaker, The Big Sleep has never quite belonged in the front rank of his work — at least not to the same degree as Scarface, Twentieth Century, Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not, Red River, The Big Sky, Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Rio Bravo, to cite my own list of favorites. Unlike To Have and Have Not (1944) — Hawks’s previous collaboration with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, writers Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, cinematographer Sid Hickox, and composer Max Steiner — it qualifies as neither a personal manifesto on social and sexual behavior nor an abstract meditation on jivey style and braggadocio set within a confined space, though it periodically reminds one that exercises of this kind are what Hawks did best.… Read more »