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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
7:00 p.m. The Big Sleep
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1945)

Prerelease version!
Student Pick!
Watch the trailer

We have come to expect the truth from The Word, on the page or on a soundtrack; but Howard Hawks, and Raymond Chandler before him, busted through all that with The Big Sleep, whose population is at least 50 percent liars. Hawks’s classic is the only film to approach the gallows humor and abrasive romanticism of Chandler’s novel, with Bogart at his best as Marlowe the moral, and Bacall as the fast-talking barker who invites him into an impossibly intricate web of blackmail and murder. Even Chandler, it is said, couldn’t explain one of the killings, which in any case take a back seat to the sophisticated Marlowe’s more pressing task: unraveling the enigmatic psychologies of his enemies and so-called friends. Bacall, for all her whiz-kid repartee, says more with a scratch of a bony knee in this film that represents the height of Hawksian expressiveness, at its core completely physical despite its literary precision. We present the 1945 pre-release version of the film, including approximately eighteen minutes of footage that was reshot for the final 1946 release, with an epilogue from archivist Robert Gitt explaining the changes.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman, from the novel by Raymond Chandler. Photographed by Sidney Hickox. With Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Elisha Cook Jr. (116 mins plus 16 mins epilogue, B&W, 35mm, Print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, permission Warner Bros.)