Parents' Guide to

The Big Sleep

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Classic noir gem has menace, innuendo.

Movie NR 1946 114 minutes
The Big Sleep Poster Image

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This film is a marvel of convoluted, unexplained plot threads that miraculously add up to one of the great pleasures of cinema. Usually categorized under the film noir umbrella for its shadowy photography and emphasis on the menace of the underworld, The Big Sleep mixes its cynicism with enough dry humor to almost lend it a sense of optimism. The bad guys go down and the detective gets the girl, even if it's not entirely clear whether she's trustworthy. The real treat is Bogart, who seems game to play tough but also self-deprecating. When he enters the mansion of the millionaire about to hire him, the beautiful young daughter of the house cuts him down: "You're not very tall, are you?" He is amused: "Well, I try to be." Tall or not, she thinks he's "cute" and seconds later literally falls into his arms. As he later tells it, "she tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up."

The movie is a great example of the importance of emphasis and editing. An unreleased version was finished in 1945 but Bacall's agent urged the studio to add scenes in which Bacall could display the insolence and sexuality that won her critical acclaim in her first film, To Have and Have Not. To make room for the new footage, nearly ten minutes of plot explanation was removed, resulting in a far less comprehensible and far more enjoyable film.

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