Sog.: dall’omonimo romanzo di Raymond Chandler; Scen.: William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; F.: Sidney Hickox; Mo.: Christian Nyby; Scgf.: Carl Jules Weyl; Co.: Leah Rhodes; Mu.: Max Steiner; Su: Robert B. Lee; Int.: Humphrey Bogart (Philip Marlowe), Lauren Bacall (Vivian Sternwood Rutledge), John Ridgely (Eddie Mars), Martha Vickers (Carmen Sternwood), Dorothy Malone (proprietaria della libreria Acme), Peggy Knudsen (Mona Mars), Regis Toomey (ispettore capo Bernie Ohls), Charles Waldron (generale Sternwood), Charles D. Brown (Norris, il maggiordomo), Bob Steele (Canino), Elisha Cook Jr. (Harry Jones), Louis Jean Heydt (Joe Brody), Sonia Darrin (Agnes Lozelle); Prod.: Howard Hawks per Warner Bros Pictures-First National; Pri. pro.: 31 agosto 1946
35mm. D.: 114′. Bn
If the plot of The Big Sleep seems rough, the story is told masterfully. The tone is humorous, though veiled, and the film is, in a certain sense, a brilliant parody of film noir. Hawks disregards the story’s realistic likelihood (eight unexplained crimes) in favor of following the internal logic of his characters. The basic issue is not about discovering who committed the crime but about watching how the characters behave. The Big Sleep is the complete opposite of a classic detective film like Grissom Gang or a work by Maurice Leblanc or Agatha Christie. (…) The plot of The Big Sleep is a detective equation with three unknowns (the blackmailer, the murder, the avenger) so simple and subtle that its obviousness immediately creates misunderstanding. Purely functional perfection. In fact, there is nothing easier to follow, the second time around, than the film’s investigation. The only difference between the viewer and Marlowe-Bogart is that the latter gets it and acts accordingly the “first” time. The Big Sleep’s similarity to other film noirs ends where its dominion over them begins. It isn’t by chance that the private detective here is more intelligent and skilled than we are and confronts more directly than elsewhere the brutal power of his antagonists. For the filmmaker it was a new occasion to exercise his diabolical irony, often employing an esoteric language. A long habit with Howard Hawks is needed to recognize the satirical points of his work, which are totally inaccessible to a Cartesian spirit. Everything we love about him we find here, in the middle of a gallery of remarkable characters, each more wretched than the next: changes of tone, confidence, digressions and rawness.
Jean-Claude Missiaen, Howard Hawks, Editions Universitaires, Paris, 1966