Episode 261- The Big Sleep (1946)

In this week’s episode of “Walk the Dark Street” we return to the Age of Classic Noir with the 1946 Bogey and Bacall vehicle, directed by Howard Hawks and with a screenplay written by none other than William Faulkner, adapted from a Raymond Chandler novel. Faulkner, later legendary for his simple, clear-cut storytelling and basic, almost child-like use of language is the perfect person to adapt this painfully easy to follow story about a simple family, a simple mystery and I’m simply lying to you. This film is not easy to follow and is less of a whodunit than it is a “why is my forehead throbbing now that the movie’s over?” sort of film. Sure, the cast is amazing, Howard Hawks’ direction is slick, tight, and speedy but is that enough to overcome a, um, SLIGHTLY convoluted plot that ends up with more holes in it than a . . . thing with a lot of holes? I believe I’ve mentioned that I’m not good at these noir similes, haven’t I? Well, give a listen, and see if this is muddled mess or the sort of movie where you don’t really know what’s happening but you just don’t care? I’ll be over here with my Big Book of Film Noir Similes so maybe I’ll have a handle on it by the end of this series.

Poll question: when you watch a mystery or thriller, do you prefer to try to figure out whodunit in advance or do you like to just let the story carry you along?

7 thoughts on “Episode 261- The Big Sleep (1946)”

  1. For me, it depends on how interested I am in the movie as it goes along. If it’s a really clever puzzle I can’t help but try and solve the mystery. If it seems super cliche or obvious but is still good in others ways I am less likely to make the effort. hey Max, come over and we will have Herzog film festival! We will start with “ even dwarves started small”! They crucify a monkey in it!

  2. On the one hand, a Herzog film festival sounds a bit intense. On the other hand . . . a monkey crucifixion, you say? Hard to turn down a monkey crucifixion. Chim-chim died for our sins!

  3. Not a poll question response (I know I’ve been slacking; so sorry!), but listening to your description of a noir movie got me thinking: can James Bond movies be termed pop noir? They have double-crosses, convoluted plots, at least one misogynistic detective-type, the femme fatale, and a grim outlook on humanity. On the other hand, they’re quite a bit flashier, are explicitly nationalistic, and tend to have happy endings, so they don’t quite fit the category of straight-up noir either. What do you think? Is it even helpful to think of them as being related to noir or not so much?

    1. Wow. That’s a really interesting thought, Ned. I’ve never really got a noir feeling from Bond, mostly because he tends to float at the upper edges of society instead of wading through or near the dregs. If I had to choose, I think I would lean towards not considering it that way but I’d still happily discuss it one way or the other. Really interesting idea! Thanks for bringing it up!

      1. Oh, yeah, he’s definitely not a noir hero proper! I’m just trying to think of what vestiges of noir there still are in today’s film repertoire, as there’s not exactly a lot that can be deemed a direct successor to noir (IMO; this is a broad statement and can DEFINITELY be debated).

    2. That is a really good question! For those interested I have a really good Taschen photo book simple called “Film Noir” that is all photos and essays by Alain Silver and James Ursini I would strongly recommend. My version is in French but there night be an English version as well. They classified “What ever happened to baby Jane” as Noir but i always think of it solidly in horror.

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