Murder is My Beat

The Big Sleep

Max Steiner

Production Credits
Original music by Max Steiner,
Milkos Rozsa, Roy Webb, David Raksin
Adolph Deutsch, and Andre Previn
Rhino Records, June 1997
18 Tracks, Total Time 73:14
Contains title track and dialogue
from The Big Sleep, 1946,
dubbed from the original soundtrack.
Disc also includes dialogue tracks
in addition to music.

The Big Sleep Humphrey Bogart, who started the cycle of films dealing with hard-bitten private detectives with The Maltese Falcon (1941), returned to the genre as Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of Raymond Chander's novel The Big Sleep. Chandler wrote that "Bogart, of course, is so much better than any other tough-guy actor . . . Also he has a sense of humor that contains that grating undertone of contempt . . . All he has to do to dominate a scene is to enter it."

Following the traditional Warners fanfare, Max Steiner presages the mystery and mayhem of Howard Hawks' first-rate private eye melodrama, The Big Sleep (1946), with heavy chordal passages accentuated by chimes. The suite from the second Hawks-directed Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall vehicle (the first was To Have and Have Not, 1944) includes an impudently flavored motif for Bogart's Philip Marlowe; a slyly romantic strain as background for the famous bookshop scene between Bogey and Dorothy Malone; a sophisticated, rather disenchanted love theme for Bogart and Bacall, and all kinds of murky, sinister, swirling masses of sounds and chordal progressions to underscore the delighfully convoluted plot dealing with assorted nocturnal ingredients and shady characters. The title The Big Sleep refers to the ultimate sleep of death.

Howard Hawks' film version of The Big Sleep (1946) mixes blackmail, murder, kidnapping, mayhem and assorted schemes and intrigue with romance--both of the serious and casual variety. The two sides of love are joined together for the music interlude included here. The fleeting encounter is represented by Steiner's filirtatious music to accompany the humorous sequence between Marlowe and the clerk in the bookshop (Dorothy Malone), while the more serious relationship between Marlowe and Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall), the brittle and sultry daughter of Marlowe's current client, is punctuated musically by a more worldly, somewhat disenchanted theme, which gets an extended treatment thoughout much of the picture.

--RUDY BEHLMER, from the liner notes
Classic Film Scores of Max Steiner.

A selection of The Big Sleep related music.

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A selection of The Big Sleep in books.

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