The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep

Vivian: You’ve forgotten one thing – me.

Philip Marlowe: What’s wrong with you?

Vivian: Nothing you can’t fix.


“The aesthetic device that both Hemingway and Hawks found most evocative of that Bogartian attitude towards the world was ‘oblique, three-cushion dialogue.’ It reflects a world of isolation and indirection, of closed spaces and mistaken purposes, in which pain is chronic, but often treated with defensive irony; a world of actions rather than feelings, in which professions and jobs are important because they are the first line of defence against the pervasive anxiety; a world of journeys to be made, races to be run, duties to be met. It is almost as though both Hawks and Hemingway themselves hid behind their technique, just as their characters use their expertise as a shield against the meaninglessness through which they daily walk. No doubt the pain of the irony is more apparent in Hemingway, but there is a smell of it always in Hawks’ work as well. And that existential odour gives his movies­ – especially The Big Sleep – a pungency and dimension that they would not otherwise have. No doubt Howard Hawks will be best remembered as the ultimate Hollywood craftsman. Yet there is a thin but vital strain which makes his films much more than the jewelled, efficiently functioning storytelling machines that they evidently are. Sometimes the emptiness shows through the cracks in the bright laughter; sometimes the breathless dialogue stops cold and the people are left bare of that protective shell. Very seldom, but sometimes.”

James Monaco1

UPDATED ON 11.10.2017