What kind of picture is The Big Sleep (1946)? The Raymond Chandler novel on which it is based is a winding and weighty detective thriller. But Howard Hawks’s film, which follows Chandler’s story pretty closely, is an altogether sunnier number, a lighter-than-air romantic comedy ballasted by the odd thud of a sap, the occasional crackle of gunfire. So it’s rather like To Have and Have Not (1944), which took what Hawks called a “piece of junk” by Hemingway and twisted its sententious disquisition on the nature of masculinity into a war-torn bedroom farce: Noël Coward meets the Nazis.
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