The Big Sleep Scene That Wakes Me Up

Yes, folks make a big to-do about the onscreen heat generated by the saucy repartee between Bogie and Bacall in Howard Hawks’ timelessly brilliant—and literally impossible to follow—detective thriller The Big Sleep. They’re great together of course, but the scene that never fails to get my motor running is the one between Marlowe and the Acme Book Shop Proprietress, played by Dorothy Malone.

This scene has me at the get-go. A bespectacled, beautiful bibliophile, surrounded by books…with a thundering downpour outside and a handy bottle of rye? Yes please. The story goes that this exchange was previously meant more as a throwaway, and was expanded once Hawks got a gander at how delicious Bogart’s ship-in-the-night confederate was to behold. Good man.

After a suggestive toast—“Hel-lo”—we get one of those classic dissolves and the sensual, low-string underscore that encourages us to use our imagination and fill in the gaps.

There’s a pensive resignation as they part:

If you ever want to buy a book…?

Ben-Hur, 1860?

With duplications. So long.

So long, pal.

The characters know it’s a moment they’ll experience together just once, available to them later only as lingering memories. We’re luckier. We can always return to the rain, the books, the rye, and the girl.

Want more? Humphrey Bogart on MovieFanFare