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Directed by Howard Hawks

United States 1945 114 mins.

One of the key noirs of the 1940s, The Big Sleep features several legends of the American page and screen—Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Howard Hawks, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, and Leigh Brackett—collaborating on a messy masterpiece that, fittingly, lacks traditional narrative logic but more than makes up for it with dripping atmosphere and fine performances. Bogart stars as private detective Philip Marlowe, hired by an elderly tycoon to ostensibly track down a man blackmailing his daughter, who has gotten into some gambling trouble. The enigmatic, sharp-talking Vivian Rutledge (Bacall)—the tycoon’s elder daughter—warns Marlowe to more nefarious things at play, and as he chances upon increasingly shady dealings, the two get closer while the treachery multiplies at a gallop.