pretty great film, but not the best from hawks/bogey/bacall…that honor still belongs to “to have and have not.” since it’s pretty well known that this is a great film and a great story, i’ll just talk about all the ways it’s not as good as to have and to have not; that’s more interesting to me. walter brennan. he’s not in the big sleep and that’s the first thing that’s wrong with this picture. this film (in front of the camera, anyway) is about only two people – bogart and bacall. yes, elisha cook is on the screen for about 7 minutes, and he’s great the entire time (i love that guy more and more every time i see him), but he’s no walter brennan and he doesn’t get the same screen time that brennan gets in to have and to have not. one reason i like far country more than the other mann/stewart collaborations is because of the balanced cast – from jay c. flippen, walter brennan and james stewart to john mcintire, ruth roman and corinne calvet; the cast is just plain stacked with characters who round out the film. the big sleep doesn’t have that to the same degree as films which are better than it.
to have and to have not takes more time to establish the relationship between bogart and bacall than the big sleep does. most of the big sleep is spent developing the complex plot. it does this very well, especially considering all the twists and turns, but characters drive great cinema, not plot.
the setting of to have and to have not was more interesting and fresh than that of big sleep. certainly not to be overlooked.
big sleep does a good job of hooking the viewer right off the bat. the interaction with bogart and the young sister is quite funny and establishes both their characters very efficiently.
the script is witty and sharp, though not as good as the very elite of film-noir (like double indemnity, the killing, or even narrow margin). that said, the exchange between bogart and bacall while they’re on the phone with the cops is priceless.