Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stubs – The Big Sleep (1945 and 1946)

The Big Sleep (1946): Theatrical Version: Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Peggy Knudsen Directed by Howard Hawks. Produced by Howard Hawks.  Screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman. Based on the novel The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Run Time: 115. Black and White, U.S. Crime, Mystery, Film Noir

The Big Sleep has all the elements to make it one of my favorite films. Humphrey Bogart is one of my favorite actors and Howard Hawks one of my favorite directors. The screenplay is sharp and witty and partially written by William Faulkner (yes, that William Faulkner) and based on the work of Raymond Chandler. My biggest problem with the film is the convoluted plot that loses me somewhere along the way.

Apparently, not all the answers are found in the original book.
Now, I’m well aware of the film’s reputation and have a pretty good idea why the film plays like it does. Shot from October 10, 1944 through January 12, 1945, the film was not released right away and was shelved by Warner Bros. as WWII was coming to an end. Now Warner Bros. wasn’t doing this out of some patriotic intention, but because they had several war films in the pipeline and thought that the public might tire of war films when the war was finally won.

After The Big Sleep went into production, Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s first pairing To Have and to Have Not (1944) had its theatrical run, making the very young Bacall a major star overnight. Not long after production on The Big Sleep wrapped, Bogart and Bacall got married.

But between the release of To Have and to Have Not, Bacall starred in another film, Confidential Agent (1945), opposite Charles Boyer. As good as her reviews had been for To Have and to Have Not, they were just as bad or worse for Confidential Agent. Seeing the potential of his client’s career to tank, Bacall’s agent, Charles K. Feldman, wrote a letter to Jack Warner asking that changes be made to The Big Sleep that would show Bacall off in a better light. He suggested some changes be made to her character, as an example making her more insolent, which had been an endearing quality of hers in To Have and to Have Not. He also suggested making some other changes that would better show her off, as in excising what he referred to as the Veil scene, most likely because her best feature, her beauty, is partially obscured.

The scathing reviews Lauren Bacall received in Confidential Agent (1945)
 opposite Charles Boyer prompted Bacall's agent Charles K. Feldman
to ask Jack Warner to make changes to The Big Sleep to help save her career.
Warner, who was well aware that there was public interest in the couple, was receptive. Who wouldn’t want to see more interplay between the two on screen? Bacall and Bogart agreed to the reshoots as long as Howard Hawks directed them and nearly a year after production closed, reshoots began on January 2, 1946.

In those days, when something was added to a film, something else had to get cut. In the case of The Big Sleep, what was cut out to make room for more Bogart and Bacall was something the filmmakers hoped no one would miss: plot.

I decided to watch the two versions of the film with the goal of finding out for myself, if there really is a cohesive plot somewhere in the film’s/story’s DNA or is there perhaps nothing there and the flaw lies with the story as much as the theatrical version of the film. I already know I might be looking for a needle in a haystack because legend has it that even Raymond Chandler couldn’t answer questions about the plot when asked by Hawks.

One other note: I know that this has been done by other bloggers on other websites and by reviewers in print, but since Trophy Unlocked is about the personal adventure through pop culture, past and present, I decided I should make the journey myself.

The theatrical version goes as follows:
Private detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is called to the house of General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) at his Los Angeles mansion. The first Sternwood Marlowe runs into though is Carmen (Martha Vickers), a sexy troublemaker, who flirts with Marlowe before the butler, Norris (Charles D. Brown), takes him to see the General. The wealthy retired and now seemingly feeble General lives in a virtual hothouse, like an orchid and can no longer drink or smoke, two things, no doubt, responsible for his being an invalid now.
Carmen Sternwood (Martha Vickers)
Sternwood tells Marlowe that he is being blackmailed for a second time. Marlowe, who once worked in the DA’s office, before getting fired for insubordination, asks what he was blackmailed about then and why it hadn’t gone through the DA’s office. Sternwood tells him that he had a man, Sean Regan, handle it. Regan is someone Marlowe is familiar with from prohibition, having fought on different sides of the law while remaining cordial. Regan handled a payment to Joe Brody of $5000 to leave Carmen alone. Now Sternwood is being threatened by a man named Arthur Gwynn Geiger (Theodore von Eltz) for gambling debts Carmen supposedly owes. Per his business card, Geiger is a dealer in rare books. Regan’s not handling this one because about a month ago he’d gone missing, which deeply hurt the General. Marlowe suggests Sternwood pay Geiger off, but neither thinks they’re really gambling debts. Marlowe agrees to get Geiger off Sternwood’s back.
Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) meets with General Sternwood
(Charles Waldron) about being blackmailed about Carmen.
On his way out, Norris tells Marlowe that Sternwood's older daughter, Mrs. Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall), wants to see him. She tries to get Marlowe to tell her what the case is about by pretending to already know. She suspects her father's true motive for calling in a detective is to find Sean Regan. But Marlowe won’t tell her and leaves.
Before going to Geiger’s bookshop, Marlowe stops at the Hollywood Public Library to research rare first editions. Then with a disguise of sunglasses and a turned up brim hat, Marlowe enters the bookstore.  Agnes Lowzier (Sonia Darrin), Geiger's assistant, minds the shop but has never heard of any of the ones he’s looked up or the fake rare books he’s made up. Marlowe asks to see Mr. Geiger when an older man enters the shop. Agnes obviously recognizes him, gives him the high sign and buzzes him into the backroom.
Marlowe quizzes Agnes Lowzier (Sonia Darrin) about her knowledge of rare books.
Marlowe heads across the street to another bookstore, Acme, and while the proprietress (Dorothy Malone) doesn’t sell the rare books he’s asking about she at least knows which ones are real or not. She helps Marlowe by describing Geiger to him. It’s starting to rain outside and Marlowe decides to wait it out in the shop and shares a bottle of rye (whiskey) he has on him. She closes the store for the day and well…

Marlowe manages to kill an afternoon in the company
of Acme Book Store proprietress (Dorothy Malone).
Marlowe stays until Geiger’s car arrives. Carol Lundgren (Thomas Rafferty) is driving and ushers Geiger to the car, but Geiger drives himself away. Marlowe follows Geiger to a house at 460 Laverne Terrace where Geiger goes inside. Marlowe waits outside in his coupe. Carmen Sternwood arrives and goes inside. Marlowe continues to wait and we get the definite idea that there has been a passage of time in hours. 
Marlowe waits outside Geiger's house.
Through the living room window, he sees a flash and hears a woman scream and as he runs towards the house he hears gunshots. While he’s trying to get inside, two cars drive from around the back of the house, but Marlowe can’t get a good view of either. Breaking into the house through a window, he finds a drugged Carmen sitting there subdued. At her feet is Geiger’s dead body and across from her on a table, he finds the flash used as well as a hidden camera without film.
Marlowe finds Carmen drugged, dazed and confused with Geiger's dead body at her feet.
Carmen is of no help, too drugged out to remember what had just happened. Marlowe goes through Geiger’s desk and finds a book with names and codes, including the Sternwood’s. He takes the book and then takes Carmen home. He tells Vivian and Norris that if the police come, Carmen never left the house. He and Vivian put her to bed and he leaves.
Marlowe hikes back to the house on Laverne Terrace, despite the rain. He starts to get into his car but decides to go back into the house and discovers the body is no longer there. But there is still blood on the rug that had been under the body.
He goes back to his apartment and tries to decode Geiger’s accounts. At two in the morning, Chief Inspector Bernie Ohls (Regis Toomey) comes by to tell him that the Sternwood’s Packard had been found off Lido Pier with a body inside. Marlowe asks if it’s Regan, but when they get down there, it turns out to be someone else, Owen Taylor, the Sternwood’s chauffeur, but it doesn’t look like an accident.
The Sternwood's Packard being pulled out of the ocean off Lido Pier.
The next day at his office, Vivian is waiting for him, not about the chauffeur, but about the business with her father. But she has with her photos that were messengered over to their house that morning. An anonymous woman had called and wants $5000 for the print and the negative of Carmen taken last night. Instead of going to the police she’s come to Marlowe’s, but on a dare, she calls them. Marlowe stops her and he and Vivian play a gag on the officer, Sgt. Riley who answered the call.
Marlowe and Vivian Sternwood (Lauren Bacall) make a gag call to the police.
Marlowe mixes business with pleasure as he flirts with Vivian while discussing business. He asks if she has the $5000 in cash, and while she doesn’t she says she can get it from Eddie Mars (John Ridgely), the gambler. There is a special bond between Mars and the Sternwoods, she tells him. Regan supposedly ran away with Mars’ wife when he disappeared. He instructs Vivian to call him when the woman calls back with instructions.
Marlowe returns to Geiger's bookstore, where they are packing up the store. Carol is there as well as another man, Joe Brody (Louis Jean Heydt). Marlowe hires a cab to follows a box laden station wagon from the store to Brody’s apartment in the Randall Arms.
Joy Barlowe plays the cab driver who helps Marlowe follow Brody.
Marlowe then returns to Geiger's house and finds Carmen stalking around there. She initially claims ignorance about the murder but then insists Brody killed Geiger. They are interrupted by the owner of the home, small-time gangster Eddie Mars, who claims to be looking for Geiger. Mars lets Carmen go but detains Marlowe. Mars finds the blood and threatens to call the police. After some very witty exchange, Mars tells Marlowe that he owns the house.
Marlowe lets Carmen into Geiger's house.
The dialogue is great. And the exchange between Mars and Marlowe is one of my favorites:
Eddie Mars: Convenient, the door being open when you didn't have a key, eh?
Philip Marlowe: Yeah, wasn't it. By the way, how'd you happen to have one?
Eddie Mars: Is that any of your business?
Philip Marlowe: I could make it my business.
Eddie Mars: I could make your business mine.
Philip Marlowe: Oh, you wouldn't like it. The pay's too small.
Some of the best dialogue comes in the scene with Eddie Mars
 (John Ridgely) and Marlowe at the house on Laverne Avenue.
Marlowe is eventually allowed to leave. Back at his office, Marlowe finally receives a call from Vivian, who claims the anonymous woman never called.
But Marlowe decides to go to Brody’s apartment, where sure enough after a while Vivian arrives and goes inside. Marlowe waits before going in himself. He talks his way into the apartment but Brody is armed. Agnes and Vivian are both initially hiding but not doing a very good job of it. Vivian is not happy to see Marlowe. Brody says he didn’t kill Geiger. Marlowe convinces Brody to give him the photo when they are interrupted by Carmen, who is armed and wants her photo. Marlowe keeps the pictures and sends Vivian and Carmen home. Brody admits he was blackmailing both General Sternwood and Vivian.
Joe Brody (Louis Jean Heydt) reluctantly lets Marlowe into his apartment.
While they’re talking, Marlowe figures out that Brody got the photo from Owen Taylor and it was Owen, sweet on Carmen, who killed Geiger, took the photo and ran. Brody followed and caught Owen and sapped him down. Marlowe is convinced that Brody killed Owen, but he can’t prove it and doesn’t really seem to want to, either. The two men are about to come to some arrangement when there is another knock on his door. Brody is suddenly shot and killed and the assailant flees. Marlowe chases and apprehends Carol Lundgren, Geiger's former driver, who has killed Brody in revenge for Geiger's death.
Marlowe apprehends Carol Lundgren (Thomas Rafferty) after he's killed, Brody.
Marlowe has Lundgren drive them to Geiger’s house. Once there Lundgren tries to escape, but Marlowe knocks him out, with a less than manly kick to the head. After tying Lundgren up, Marlowe discovers Geiger’s body in one of the bedrooms. He calls Bernie to have him come out to Geiger’s, where Lundgren is arrested.
Next, Vivian meets Marlowe at a restaurant and they discuss the case. She’s happy that the case has turned out so well and pays him off. She openly flirts with him. They use racing jargon to discuss each other. He suspects that someone put Vivian up to “sugaring him off the case.” He knows it wasn’t her father and he intends to keep investigating. He speculates that it’s Eddie Mars, and that rattles her. He lets her leave before he calls Eddie Mars to set up a meeting.
Marlowe meets with Vivian in a bar where she tells him the case is closed.
Marlowe drives out to Mars' casino. Vivian is already there, singing with the gang around the piano, you know, the same thing you see in Vegas casinos all the time. (Right) This is an obvious way to let Bacall sing in the film, as she did to good reception in To Have and to Have Not.
Vivian sings Tears Flowed Like Wine in The Big Sleep.
When Marlowe meets with Mars, they are both cordial. Marlowe asks Mars about Regan, but Mars is evasive. He seems to convince Marlowe that he wasn’t involved in the blackmail scheme with the Sternwoods. Mars tells Marlowe that Vivian is running up gambling debts. Marlowe is about to leave, but he questions Mars’ lack of concern for finding his wife. Vivian asks pages to let Marlowe know that she wants to see him. She is winning big at roulette and then wants Marlowe to take her home. A stooge of Mars' attempts to rob Vivian, but Marlowe intervenes and knocks him out.
While driving home through the desert, Marlowe unsuccessfully presses Vivian on her connection with Mars, saying he knew the money she won and subsequent robbery was a setup by Mars and her, but Vivian admits to nothing. Marlowe kisses her and he keeps pressing for answers. When she won’t show him the money she supposedly won, Marlowe tells her that she’s on her own as far as he’s concerned.
Marlowe pulls over on the highway for talking and making out with Vivian.
Marlowe returns home to find a flirtatious Carmen waiting for him. She admits she didn't like Regan because he didn’t treat her like a woman. She also mentions that Mars calls Vivian frequently. She attempts to seduce Marlowe, who instead throws her out of his apartment.
Carmen shows up uninvited at Marlowe's apartment.
Marlowe is awakened the next afternoon by a call from Bernie who wants to see him right away. Bernie tells him that per the DA he’s supposed to lay off the Sternwood case. Vivian is behind it, but Marlowe intends to keep on investigating, even if he doesn’t have a client. He tells Bernie that he thinks Mars has something on Vivian and thinks it has something to do with Sean Regan.
After eating breakfast in the afternoon, Marlowe calls to come out and see General Sternwood. Norris tells him that it’s not possible, but that Vivian wants to talk to him. She tells him that Regan has been found in Mexico, but injured and that she is leaving to see him.
Marlowe calls General Sternwood from a pay phone.
On his way back to his office, Marlowe notices a car that he suspects has been following him. Checking the registration, the car is owned by Harry Jones (Elisha Cook Jr.), an associate of Brody's, who apparently is now Agnes' lover or at least he thinks he is. Before Marlowe gets much further, a couple of thugs work him over in the alley. One of them tells him to lay off.
Harry introduces himself to Marlowe afterward and helps him up to his office. He tells Marlowe that he has something to sell cheap, for a couple of C’s, that it would help him find Regan. Harry tells him that Agnes has the information and will tell him when she has the money. They arrange to meet in another office in an hour and Harry will take him to Agnes.
Harry Jones (Elisha Cook Jr.) makes a deal with Marlowe.
However, when Marlowe arrives, Jones is already being interrogated by a hired killer who works for Eddie Mars named Canino (Bob Steele). He wants to know why Harry’s been following Marlowe. When he tells him he’s doing it for Agnes, Canino wants to know where Agnes is. Jones gives him an address, which turns out to be false, and then Canino poisons him. Marlowe admires what Harry did but bemoans that he’s been left high and dry, that is until Agnes calls. Marlowe tells her that Harry died to keep her out of trouble, but she’s more concerned about the money.
Marlowe listens in, but doesn't intercede while Canino
(Bob Steele) interrogates and then poisons Harry.
They meet and Agnes tells him how one day when she and Joe were out driving around they saw Mona Mars in a car with Canino and decided to follow them. Mona’s staying 10 miles east of a town called Realito behind an auto repair shop run by a guy named Art Huck (Trevor Bardette).
In exchange for $200 Agnes tells Marlowe where Mona Mars is staying.
Marlowe drives out there and fakes a roadside emergency, flattening his own car tire by letting the air out. He then goes to Art’s to ask for help. Art is reluctant, but Canino, who is already there, acts like Art should help him. The two of them then attack Marlowe, tie him up and take him into the house.
Canino is supposedly waiting for a spray job at Huck's Auto shop.
When he wakes up he is being watched over by Mona Mars (Peggy Knudsen) and Vivian. Mona tells Marlowe she’d like to know  what happened to Sean. Vivian is angry that Marlowe didn’t let the case drop. She tells him that since there’s no phone in the house, Art and Canino have gone into Realito to use the phone to call Mars for instructions.
Vivian and Mona Mars (Peggy Knudsen) watch Marlowe
after Huck and Canino drive into Realito to use the phone.
Mona tries to defend her husband, but Marlowe tells her that Mars is a gangster, blackmailer, a killer and so on until Mona angrily leaves them alone. Marlowe plays on Vivian’s fears for his life and she frees him, cutting the ropes that bind him, but not the handcuffs. Canino has the key. When the men return, Vivian creates a distraction, allowing Marlowe to get to his car and his gun.
Marlowe has hidden guns in his car.
Canino sends Art out of the house first, but Marlow fires a gun causing Huck to run for his life. Canino brings Vivian outside at gunpoint using her as a shield. She yells that Marlowe is in the car behind the wheel and Canino empties his gun into the car. Just then Marlowe pops up and shoots Canino dead.
During the drive back to Geiger's bungalow, Vivian admits that she’s in love with Marlowe, but doesn’t want to go to the police, as she unconvincingly tries to claim she killed Sean Regan. Marlowe can’t do the right thing for what he fears it will do to the Sternwoods.
When they arrive, Marlowe calls Mars and lies that he is still in Realito at the same pay phone Canino used. They arrange to meet at Geiger's house, giving Marlowe ten minutes to prepare. Mars arrives with four men, who set up ambush points outside. Marlowe has Vivian watch the back of the house.
Marlowe calls Mars from Geiger's house but pretends he's still in Realito.
Mars enters and is surprised by Marlowe, who holds him at gunpoint. Marlowe reveals he has discerned the truth: Mars has been blackmailing Vivian, claiming that her sister Carmen had killed Regan. But while the story makes sense, Marlowe believes Carmen is capable of murder, he wants Mars to convince him. Marlowe calls Mars on the fact that he didn’t seem to know Carmen that day they’d all been at Geiger’s. But that question never really gets resolved. Eddie tells him that his boys have orders to shoot whoever comes out of the house first. Marlowe retaliates by an errant firing shot. The next one nicks Mars in the wrist. Mars runs outside and even though he yells for his boys not to shoot, they do. His lifeless body falls back into the house.
Marlowe then calls Bernie to come get him. He tells him that Mars is the one who killed Regan. While the two of them wait for the police to arrive, Marlowe tells Vivian that what he is going to tell the police will be close to the truth and he tells Vivian that they’ll have to send Carmen away to get help. Vivian tells Marlowe that he’s forgotten one thing, her. When he asks what’s wrong with her, she tells him nothing that he can’t fix. The sirens wail as the police close in.
"What about me?" Vivian asks Marlowe at the end of The Big Sleep.
Is it just me, but I’m really not sure who killed Sean Regan and why I should care. Marlowe hints pretty strongly that it’s Carmen, but he never makes it clear or lets anyone else sound definitive about it. He even shoots holes through Mars’ version of the story, as if Mars couldn’t have known it was Carmen.  We’re told Carmen’s motivation was that Regan rejected her, but why did Mars hide the body or start the rumor that Mona had run off with him? For a mystery, it leaves a lot of things unresolved by the end of the movie.
I don’t blame Marlowe for wanting to protect Vivian, he’s in love with her after all, but I don’t like the fact that after nearly two hours I don’t have a conclusion to the story and that Marlowe, through his actions, is the one who has kept me from the truth.

That complaint aside, this is really a movie I want to love. There are so many things going for it. The stars are truly stars and good actors to boot. Bogart is one of my favorite Hollywood actors and I don’t think I’ve kept that a secret. He is riveting to watch on the screen and I get a real sense that he understands the Marlowe character.

Lauren Bacall is also very good and she and Bogart are really good together. The old adage about chemistry really comes through on the screen, even when their characters are trying to act like there isn’t any is proven true here.

The supporting cast is also really good as well. Elisha Cook is always good, especially in little roles, like Harry Jones. Martha Vickers as Carmen comes close to stealing the movie away from Bacall.  Raymond Chandler even noticed this and the producers cut down on her part in the theatrical version. Bob Steele makes a very menacing Canino and John Ridgely is also very good as Eddie Mars.

Tom Fadden (Sidney) (l) and Ben Weldon (Pete) play a
couple of Mars' henchmen and also provide some comedic relief.
The theatrical version is a little like Christmas when you’re a kid and get a lot of presents of things you’re supposed to want, but you don’t get the big item you really do. You like what you get, but you don’t love it. In the case of the theatrical version of The Big Sleep, I love it, but it confuses me. My hope is that the key to my confusion is in the Lauren Bacall additions and plot subtractions that take place in between the original and the theatrical versions.

So, it’s on to the original version of the film to look for answers.

The Big Sleep (1945, Not Theatrically Released): Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Pat Clark. Directed by Howard Hawks. Produced by Howard Hawks. Screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman. Based on the novel The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Run Time: 115. Black and White, U.S. Crime, Mystery, Film Noir

The movie starts out much the same as the theatrical version, with the first change when Marlowe breaks into the house on Laverne Terrace following the light, the scream, and the gunshots. Marlowe takes the bottle of what Carmen had been drinking and the two glasses next to her into the kitchen and runs water over them (I’m guessing thus destroy fingerprints that might link her to the crime scene.) He notices the window over the sink has been broken into. He then makes a search of the house, going through Geiger’s things and finding a set of keys.

Marlowe searches Geiger's bedroom in the original version of The Big Sleep.
Back in the living room, he uses the keys to unlock the desk, which he searches, finds the strong box and the coded book which he takes. When Marlowe takes Carmen back to the Sternwood house, he doesn’t go inside, as he does in the theatrical version, and Vivian is not home either. Marlowe tells everything to Norris and then hikes back to the house on Laverne.

The film pretty much picks up where it had, when Vivian comes to Marlowe’s office, there is a little bit different dialogue in the original than in the theatrical version. Overdubs were made for the theatrical since Vivian was home in that version and the dialogue has to reflect that.

Again things proceed pretty much the same until after Brody is murdered. Marlowe captures the shooter, Carol Lundgren, and takes him back to the house on Laverne and finds Geiger’s body has been returned. But after calling Bernie, instead of meeting Vivian for drinks and sex talk, Marlowe has an appointment with Mr. Wilde (Thomas Jackson), the DA and Captain Cronajer (James Flavin) from the Hollywood division. On the drive over, Bernie tells Marlowe that it might get tough in there. Neither Wilde (whom I take it was once Marlowe’s employer) and Capt. Cronajer (whom Marlowe has had run-ins with in the past) like him. Bernie thinks he can needle Cronajer enough to take the heat off Marlowe.

In scene excised from the theatrical version, Marlowe accompanies Bernie downtown.
And Bernie does needle Cronajer about the Brody killing, making him admit that he doesn’t have much, after all, it had only happened an hour ago. Bernie then announces that Marlowe brought in the killer. While Bernie continues to tell everyone how inept Cronajer’s men have been on the case and in general, Marlowe seems to enjoy it, which only makes Cronajer madder. Bernie speaks frankly in front of the DA to the point that he practically accuses him of taking a bribe to look the other way at Geiger’s porno business, which he ran out of the back of his rare books shop. Marlowe tells his side of the story, all along having it written down by a court clerk, Eddie (those squiggly looking lines are what they used to call shorthand). We get an abbreviated, cut off version of the story up to now, with Marlowe admitting he left out certain personal details to protect his client. Cronajer has to be convinced it’s not worth pursuing Marlowe’s license. But Cronajer’s division has two murders solved and has the two killers.

District Attorney Wilde (Thomas Jackson) and Captain Cronajer (James Flavin)
 only appear in the unreleased version of The Big Sleep. The part of Bernie Ohls
(Regis Toomey) was also cut back severely in the theatrical release.
Okay, here I think I’m starting to get confused a little. Aren’t there three murders? (1) Owen, the chauffeur killed Geiger, (2) Brody killed Owen (at least Marlowe thinks he does) and (3) Carol killed Brody. That’s three, isn’t it?

Anyway back to the DA’s office, Bernie leaves with Cronajer to hand over Carol to his custody and Wilde dismisses Eddie but has him leave his notebook. Alone, Wilde tells Marlowe that he’ll have to make a new statement for their files as he rips up the notes Eddie had taken. He wants Marlowe to keep the two murders separate and keep the General’s name out of it. Wilde further suggests that what Sternwood was really after was for Marlowe to prove that Regan was not a part of the blackmail scheme and tells him that the best way to do that is to find Regan.

The next scene in the film, referred to as the Veil scene, has Vivian coming to Marlowe’s office a second time, this time, to pay Marlowe off ($500) and telling him her father considers the case closed. This was excised, but replaced by the scene where Vivian meets Marlowe in a bar to give him the final payment. In a letter from Kaufman he suggested this scene be cut in lieu of more interplay between Vivian and Marlowe, hence in the theatrical version, we have that horse-race talk in lieu of a sex scene in the bar.

The Veil scene that was cut from the movie at the suggestion of Bacall's agent.
Afterward, Marlowe calls Mars and goes to visit his gambling house. The film continues as the theatrical version does, but without the scene of Carmen visiting Marlowe in his apartment. While originally shot for the film, this scene was cut and then reinstated for the theatrical version. The only significant change comes later in the film after Marlowe has been beaten up by Canino and Huck and left tied up in the house in the back while they go off looking for a phone to call Mars. While the original scene plays pretty much the same, there are a couple of changes. More attention is paid to Vivian, that’s a given. But the part of Mona Mars is played by a different actress, Pat Clark, who apparently wasn’t available for the reshoots. Though this is a very small part, Peggy Knudsen is a definite improvement and the overall scene works better the second time around.

Pat Clark was the original Mona Mars but was not available when the scene was re-shot.
From that point on, the film plays out pretty much the same to conclusion and sadly to the same confusion. Having watched both versions again, I think besides the number of murders being off, it’s the involvement of Sean Regan, a character we never see on screen and are never really shown how he fits into the plot. Mars supposedly kills him but manages to convince Vivian that Carmen did it during a blackout.

The whole subplot with Regan and Mona Mars, which is never played out (and probably couldn’t have been at the time this film was made thanks to the Production Code), seems very superfluous. Mona has to be really dumb not to have figured out anything at all. Her husband stashes her out in the boonies with Huck, Regan disappears and she never puts two and two together?

And what is Vivian doing out there when Marlowe is captured? I know it’s a guise to hide the fact she wasn’t going to Mexico to bring back the already dead Regan, but her sole purpose for being there seems contrived. If Vivian hadn’t been with Mona, Marlowe would be dead.

Maybe it’s not confusion so much as the writing, which is for the most part so good, seems to dissolve before your eyes into a convoluted mess near the end. Maybe it’s not confusion so much as disappointment. Back to my Christmas metaphor, it’s like receiving an Xbox One when you really wanted a PS4. Both are gaming consoles, but One is not as good as it should have been.
All I want for Christmas is a PS4.
I really think there is a good film in here that could have been great. Perhaps some splicing of the two would make it whole. (Just a suggestion.) Contrary to other criticisms I’ve read and watched (there is a special feature on the two-sided DVD released by Warner Bros. in 1997), I don’t think the changes made for the theatrical release make a good film great. They just make it different and a little more confusing. Some of the changes are better for the story and definitely better for Bacall, whose own career did not go over the cliff as everyone worried. I like the racy scene in the bar over the Veil scene and I prefer Knudsen to Clark as a Mona Mars, but why can’t I have those and the scene with Wilde and Cronajer, too? It doesn’t resolve all of the confusion, but it does explain many things left unsaid in the theatrical release.

Ultimately, would I recommend The Big Sleep? Yes, but with the caveat, don’t let this be your first and only Bogart and Bacall film. See To Have and to Have Not, Dark Passage and Key Largo as well. And while The Big Sleep is wonderful to watch, turn off that part of your brain that wants completion, because neither version will give it to you.

The Big Sleep is available at the WB Shop:

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