Stars: Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Richard Boone, Candy Clark, Joan Collins
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Romance
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 114 minutes
The Maltese Falcon Still the tightest, sharpest, and most cynical of Hollywood's official deathless classics, bracingly tough even by post-Tarantino standards. Humphrey Bogart is Dashiell Hammett's definitive private eye, Sam Spade, struggling to keep his hard-boiled cool as the double-crosses pile up around his ankles. The plot, which dances all around the stolen Middle Eastern statuette of the title, is too baroque to try to follow, and it doesn't make a bit of difference. The dialogue, much of it lifted straight from Hammett, is delivered with whip-crack speed and sneering ferocity, as Bogie faces off against Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet, fends off the duplicitous advances of Mary Astor, and roughs up a cringing "gunsel" played by Elisha Cook Jr. It's an action movie of sorts, at least by implication: the characters always seem keyed up, right on the verge of erupting into violence. This is a turning-point picture in several respects: John Huston (The African Queen) made his directorial debut here in 1941, and Bogart, who had mostly played bad guys, was a last-minute substitution for George Raft, who must have been kicking himself for years afterward. This is the role that made Bogart a star and established his trendsetting (and still influential) antihero persona. --David Chute Casablanca A truly perfect movie, Casablanca (1942) still wows viewers today, and for good reason. Its unique story of a love triangle set against terribly high stakes in the war against a monster is sophisticated instead of outlandish, intriguing instead of garish. Humphrey Bogart plays the allegedly apolitical club owner in unoccupied French territory that is nevertheless crawling with Nazis; Ingrid Bergman is the lover who mysteriously deserted him in Paris; and Paul Heinreid is her heroic, slightly bewildered husband. Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt are among what may be the best supporting cast in the history of Hollywood films. This is certainly among the most spirited and ennobling movies ever made. --Tom Keogh The Big Sleep Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made screen history together more than once, but they were never more popular than in this 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel, directed by Howard Hawks (To Have and Have Not). Bogart plays private eye Philip Marlowe, who is hired by a wealthy socialite (Bacall) to look into troubles stirred up by her wild, young sister (Martha Vickers). Legendarily complicated (so much so that even Chandler had trouble following the plot), the film is nonetheless hugely entertaining and atmospheric, an electrifying plunge into the exotica of detective fiction. William Faulkner wrote the screenplay. --Tom Keogh Key Largo John Huston directed this smart 1948 thriller about a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) who holds a number of people hostage in a hotel in the Florida Keys during a tropical storm. Humphrey Bogart is the returning war veteran who takes on the villains, and Lauren Bacall is on hand as one of the people on the wrong end of Robinson's gun. Somewhat similar in tone to Howard Hawks's To Have and Have Not (which also featured Bogart and Bacall), this moody movie captures a certain despair offset by the bond between individuals united by common purpose. Claire Trevor won an Academy Award for her part as Robinson's alcoholic girlfriend. --Tom Keogh
What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on the top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now. Far more a part of it than Rusty Regan was. But the old man didn't have to be. He could lie quiet in his canopied bed, with his bloodless hands folded on the sheet, waiting. His heart was a brief, uncertain murmur. His thoughts were as gray as ashes. And in a little while he too, like Rusty Regan, would be sleeping the big sleep.