The Big Sleep (PG)

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
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The Independent Culture

This vintage noir of 1946 gets a BFI rerelease in celebration of the director Howard Hawks. Famously, nobody could make head nor tail of the labyrinthine plot, but Hawks got round it by shaking every scene till it fizzed.

It bottles Raymond Chandler's dry wit and fast talk like no other, not least because of its magical star alchemy of Bogart and Bacall. He is the cynical private eye Marlowe, she is the ice-cool daughter of the client who has hired him on a blackmail case. That they end up in each other's arms was not a given: on studio advice, Hawks reshot scenes and added others to juice up the romance, including the terrific bar scene where they exchange risqué double entendres about horse-racing. He: "You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how far you can go." She: "A lot depends on who's in the saddle." It's one of the few instances where "studio interference" could be counted a blessing.