Based on Raymond Chandler’s 1939 “hard-boiled” crime novel, Howard Hawks’s inventive adaptation of The Big Sleep (1946) perfectly embodies the distinctively American genre of film noir, while also serving as a cultural touchstone for an increasingly anxious postwar America. Production on the film began in October of 1944, so The Big Sleep is both a product of the late-war years and an unnerving foreshadowing of the postwar America into which the film was finally released in August 1946.
Featuring Humphrey Bogart—in one of his career-defining roles—as cynical detective Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep casts its private-eye protagonist into a demimonde of seedy characters and shady double-crosses. Marlowe's is an underground America that stands in stark contrast to the conventional postwar mood of triumph; it is a place where clear heroes are seemingly in short supply and morally compromised manipulators abound. With the undeniable chemistry of Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who married a few months after production ended, The Big Sleep is a film of overwrought personalities and overpowering mood. Often criticized as being an inscrutable and incoherent narrative (despite or because of the writing contributions of a troubled William Faulkner), The Big Sleep is perhaps best appreciated when one fixates less on unraveling the plot and more on downing the film’s potent cocktail of style and attitude. In the Los Angeles of The Big Sleep, the wages of sin and malaise are never far from being collected.
Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.