The Big Sleep (1978)

R | 99 mins | Drama, Mystery | 1978

Director:

Michael Winner

Writer:

Michael Winner

Cinematographer:

Robert Paynter

Production Designer:

Harry Pottle

Production Companies:

Winkast Company , ITC
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HISTORY

       Throughout the movie, Robert Mitchum provides voice-over narration as “Philip Marlowe,” in keeping with the first person narrative of the source novel.
       Though the novel and the 1946 film adaptation (see entry) were set in Los Angeles, CA, writer-director Michael Winner located his version of The Big Sleep in London, UK, believing that it was more faithful to author Raymond Chandler’s original vision of the story, according to interviews in the 31 Aug 1977 Var and the Oct 1977 Films & Filming.
       Robert Mitchum reprised the role of “Philip Marlowe,” a character he first played in Farewell, My Lovely (1975, see entry).
       A 6 Jul 1977 news item in Var estimated the production's budget was $5 million. Although United Artists Corp. had purchased the film rights to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep from Warner Bros., UA clashed with the film’s producers when it expressed a desire to market the picture to a few select territories rather than on a worldwide basis. UA “ceded” its rights to produce the story, but remained attached as the film’s distributor. While the article also lists Rank Organization as a producer “with minority participation,” Rank Organization is not credited onscreen.
       According to a 3 Oct 1977 Box news item, principal photography began 1 Aug 1977.
       Although Var reported on 6 Jul 1977 that the production would take a minimum of nine weeks, the publication revised its estimate to eight weeks on 31 Aug 1977.
       Despite occasional positive reviews of the film, critical reception was negative overall, with detractors, including Richard Corliss in the 17 ... More Less

       Throughout the movie, Robert Mitchum provides voice-over narration as “Philip Marlowe,” in keeping with the first person narrative of the source novel.
       Though the novel and the 1946 film adaptation (see entry) were set in Los Angeles, CA, writer-director Michael Winner located his version of The Big Sleep in London, UK, believing that it was more faithful to author Raymond Chandler’s original vision of the story, according to interviews in the 31 Aug 1977 Var and the Oct 1977 Films & Filming.
       Robert Mitchum reprised the role of “Philip Marlowe,” a character he first played in Farewell, My Lovely (1975, see entry).
       A 6 Jul 1977 news item in Var estimated the production's budget was $5 million. Although United Artists Corp. had purchased the film rights to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep from Warner Bros., UA clashed with the film’s producers when it expressed a desire to market the picture to a few select territories rather than on a worldwide basis. UA “ceded” its rights to produce the story, but remained attached as the film’s distributor. While the article also lists Rank Organization as a producer “with minority participation,” Rank Organization is not credited onscreen.
       According to a 3 Oct 1977 Box news item, principal photography began 1 Aug 1977.
       Although Var reported on 6 Jul 1977 that the production would take a minimum of nine weeks, the publication revised its estimate to eight weeks on 31 Aug 1977.
       Despite occasional positive reviews of the film, critical reception was negative overall, with detractors, including Richard Corliss in the 17 Apr 1978 New Times expressing disdain for writer-director Michael Winner’s decision to transplant the story from 1940s Los Angeles to present-day London.
      The end credits include the following statement: "Filmed on location in London by The Winkast Company Ltd., 9 Clifford Street, London, W.1. England."
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Oct 1977.
---
Box Office
20 Mar 1978.
---
Cue
18 Mar 1978.
---
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1978
p. 3, 26.
Films and Filming
Oct 1977
p. 44-45.
Films and Filming
Nov 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1978
p. 3, 20.
Independent Film Journal
31 Mar 1978.
---
LAHExam
29 Mar 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Jul 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Mar 1978
p. 1.
Motion Picture Product Digest
22 Mar 1978
p. 84.
New Times
17 Apr 1978
p. 81-82.
New York Magazine
10 Apr 1978
p. 72.
New York Times
15 Mar 1978
p. 19.
Newsweek
27 Mar 1978.
---
Time
14 Apr 1978.
---
Variety
6 Jul 1977.
---
Variety
31 Aug 1977.
---
Variety
15 Mar 1978
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Sir Lew Grade presents
An Elliott Kastner-Jerry Bick Production
A Michael Winner Film
From ITC Entertainment, an ATV Company
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam focus
Prod processing
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Supv ed
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
Origl mus copyright© MCMLXXVIII
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Continuity
Casting dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (New York, 1939).
SONGS
"Won't Somebody Dance With Me," music and lyrics by Lynsey de Paul.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep
Release Date:
1978
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 15 March 1978
Los Angeles opening: 29 March 1978
Production Date:
Began 1 August 1977 in London, England
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
12 May 1978
Copyright Number:
PA39786
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® Equipment
Duration(in mins):
99
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25107
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Private detective Philip Marlowe drives up to the English estate of General Sternwood, a potential client. While awaiting his meeting, Marlowe is approached by a flirtatious young woman whom he later learns is the general’s younger daughter, Camilla. The sickly General receives Marlowe in his greenhouse and the two men discuss Sternwood’s wealth and his wild daughters. Sternwood expresses deep fondness for Rusty Regan, the husband of his older daughter, Charlotte. Though Rusty recently went missing, the General wants Marlowe to help with a recent threat of blackmail rather than with the disappearance of his son-in-law. A bookseller named Arthur Gwynn Geiger claims that Camilla owes him £1000 for a gambling debt. Sternwood explains this is his second experience with blackmail. A previous time, he was forced to pay off a man named Joe Brody to stop seeing Camilla. Marlowe agrees to take the case, but before he leaves the estate, Charlotte sends for him. Scantily clad, Charlotte greets him in her bedroom and tries to determine the reason for his visit. When Marlowe refuses to discuss the case, Charlotte presumes that Sternwood hired Marlowe to find her husband and reveals a few details about Rusty’s disappearance. Sometime later, Marlowe goes to Geiger’s bookshop and tells the beautiful clerk, Agnes Lozelle, that he wants to meet the proprietor. When Agnes insists that Geiger isn’t available, Marlowe becomes suspicious. He follows a customer and discovers that Geiger’s real business is pornography. Marlowe finds Geiger and follows him home. There, Marlowe observes Camilla enter the house. He hears gunshots a few minutes later. Breaking in, ... +


Private detective Philip Marlowe drives up to the English estate of General Sternwood, a potential client. While awaiting his meeting, Marlowe is approached by a flirtatious young woman whom he later learns is the general’s younger daughter, Camilla. The sickly General receives Marlowe in his greenhouse and the two men discuss Sternwood’s wealth and his wild daughters. Sternwood expresses deep fondness for Rusty Regan, the husband of his older daughter, Charlotte. Though Rusty recently went missing, the General wants Marlowe to help with a recent threat of blackmail rather than with the disappearance of his son-in-law. A bookseller named Arthur Gwynn Geiger claims that Camilla owes him £1000 for a gambling debt. Sternwood explains this is his second experience with blackmail. A previous time, he was forced to pay off a man named Joe Brody to stop seeing Camilla. Marlowe agrees to take the case, but before he leaves the estate, Charlotte sends for him. Scantily clad, Charlotte greets him in her bedroom and tries to determine the reason for his visit. When Marlowe refuses to discuss the case, Charlotte presumes that Sternwood hired Marlowe to find her husband and reveals a few details about Rusty’s disappearance. Sometime later, Marlowe goes to Geiger’s bookshop and tells the beautiful clerk, Agnes Lozelle, that he wants to meet the proprietor. When Agnes insists that Geiger isn’t available, Marlowe becomes suspicious. He follows a customer and discovers that Geiger’s real business is pornography. Marlowe finds Geiger and follows him home. There, Marlowe observes Camilla enter the house. He hears gunshots a few minutes later. Breaking in, Marlowe discovers that someone shot Geiger dead while he was taking nude photos of a drugged Camilla. Marlowe takes Camilla home, returns to Geiger’s house and finds the body is missing. The next day, Marlowe learns through his Scotland Yard connection that the Sternwood’s chauffeur, Owen Taylor, was found dead behind the wheel of the General’s car. Taylor and Camilla once ran away to get married and, though they were thwarted, Taylor remained smitten with her. Later, Marlowe returns to Geiger’s shop and witnesses Geiger’s assistant, Karl Lundgren, loading a van. Marlowe follows the van to the apartment of Camilla’s former lover, Joe Brody. Back at his office, Marlowe finds Charlotte, who reports that she is being blackmailed for £10,000 to prevent the publication of Camilla’s nude photographs. Charlotte is certain she can get the money from Eddie Mars, the owner of the club where she gambles. She feels that Mars is indebted to her because Mars’s wife, Mona Grant, is rumored to have run away with Rusty. Still, Charlotte would like Marlowe to look into it. Marlowe returns to Geiger’s house and runs into Camilla, who is trying to retrieve the photographs. Camilla is convinced Joe Brody killed Geiger. Suddenly, Mars arrives at the house, also seeking Geiger, and reports that he is Geiger’s landlord. Although Mars warns Marlowe to keep away from his business, Marlowe reveals that he knows about Mona and Rusty. Marlowe heads to Brody’s apartment and finds Brody with Agnes. Just then, Camilla shows up and holds Brody at gunpoint, demanding her photographs. A scuffle ensues and Marlowe retrieves the nude pictures, takes Camilla’s gun and sends her home. Brody admits that he blackmailed Charlotte so he could run away with Agnes but denies killing Geiger. Brody says that he witnessed Owen Taylor shoot Geiger. When Taylor drove away with the negatives of Camilla, Brody chased him until Taylor crashed Sternwood’s car. Brody fled the scene with the film. Hearing the story, Marlowe suspects that Owen committed suicide in the car. Just then, Brody is shot through the front door as he responds to his doorbell. Giving chase, Marlowe catches the killer and discovers Geiger’s assistant and lover, Karl Lundgren. Karl believes that Brody shot Geiger, so he killed Brody in retaliation. Karl is the one who took Geiger’s body. Karl and Marlowe return to Geiger’s home, where they find Geiger’s body where Karl has returned it. Marlowe takes Karl to the police and gives an account of recent events; however, he omits Camilla’s visit to Brody’s apartment and his encounter with Mars. The inspector is convinced that Rusty’s disappearance is at the root of all the trouble and suspects that Sternwood is using Marlowe’s blackmail investigation as a way to find Rusty. Mars contacts Marlowe and, upon confirming the private detective did not mention him to the police, he invites Marlowe to his club to learn more about Rusty. Although Marlowe has solved both blackmail cases, he remains curious about Sternwood’s intentions. Theorizing that Rusty was involved with Geiger’s plot and Sternwood is trying to protect his son-in-law from being discovered, Marlowe decides to investigate Rusty’s disappearance and goes to Mars’s club. However, Mars claims ignorance about Rusty’s whereabouts and offers to pay Marlowe for keeping his name from the police. Refusing the money, Marlowe watches Charlotte gamble. When Mars permits the young woman to place and win an excessive bet, Marlowe suspects that the club owner is holding something over her. Back at home, Marlowe finds Camilla in his bed, naked, but he refuses her advances and she leaves in anger. The next morning, Agnes and Brody’s friend, Harry Jones, approach Marlowe with information about Rusty’s disappearance. Brody told Jones that he saw Charlotte paying off Mars’s henchman, Lash Canino, so Brody and Agnes followed Canino and discovered Mona hiding on the outskirts of town. Jones and Agnes want to sell the details of Mona’s location so they can run away together. Marlowe offers to pay, but Jones insists that Marlowe meet with Agnes that evening at Brody’s office. That night, at the office, Marlowe sees Canino kill Jones. When Agnes calls the office looking for Jones, Marlowe picks up and they plan to meet. Marlowe pays Agnes and she recounts the last place she saw Mona. Marlowe heads to the location, but encounters Canino, who overpowers Marlowe and ties him up. As Marlowe wakes from unconsciousness, he sees Mona. The young woman explains that Mars hid her away so he would not be implicated in Rusty’s disappearance. Marlowe convinces Mona to release him, then gets away by killing Canino in self-defense. Back at the police station, Marlowe gives another report and learns that there’s no evidence linking Mars to Rusty’s disappearance. Sometime later, Sternwood summons Marlowe back to the estate and asks him to search for Rusty. On his way out, Marlowe runs into Camilla, returns the gun that he confiscated at Brody’s apartment, and agrees to teach her how to shoot. However, Camilla attempts to kill Marlowe during the lesson, unaware that he had filled the gun with blanks. When Marlowe takes Camilla home, he relates his theory to Charlotte: Rusty rejected Camilla’s advances and she shot him. Charlotte discovered the murder, went to Mars for help and paid Canino to get rid of Rusty’s body, an interaction that was witnessed by Brody. With this information, Mars used Geiger to blackmail Sternwood. Additionally, Mars hid Mona so rumors would spread that she ran away with Rusty and there would not be a search for Rusty’s body. Then Mars planned to blackmail Charlotte for her inheritance upon Sternwood’s death. When Marlowe finishes telling Charlotte his theory, she tries to bribe him to keep quiet, but Marlowe refuses. Instead, he orders Charlotte to get help for her unstable sister. Marlowe warns that the sordid story would destroy Sternwood and Marlowe would rather the General retain some pride in his family in his remaining days. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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