The Big Sleep

Boagart and Bacall sit on a desk

The older it gets, the better 1946’s The Big Sleep looks. When it was new, Howard Hawks’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s famously unfathomable story was rooted in reality – the clothes, the cars, the language, the streets of LA. Since then, as it’s become detached from the everyday, it has risen unimpeded into the mythic. The opening scene sets the tone. A detective, Philip Marlowe, arriving at the mansion of General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), where the sick old man lives in an orchid house, staying alive on the heat, while his daughters run wild with his money. One of them, the general informs Marlowe, has got into some trouble. Can Marlowe fix it? That’s … Read more

Twentieth Century

John Barrymore and Carole Lombard

Named after the New York to Chicago train and designed to be just as sleek, fast and modern, Twentieth Century is a brilliant Howard Hawks screwball comedy that’s been slightly overshadowed by other brilliant Howard Hawks screwball comedies, like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. In art-imitates-life style, it tells the A Star Is Born story of one person in the ascendant and another on the decline, with Carole Lombard in the role that made her name, and John Barrymore pausing momentarily as he transited from movie godhood to a very mortal early death. Both are brilliant, but Barrymore is perhaps even better than Lombard, as Oscar Jaffe, a stage impresario with … Read more

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 26 April Anita Loos born, 1889 On this day in 1889, or possibly 1888, Corinne Anita Loos was born. Always cagey about her true age, Anita became best known for her comic novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She grew up in a theatrical family – her father managed a theatrical stock company – and she was performing on stage as a young girl. Her father wrote one-act plays for the company and a precocious Anita started turning them out too. Having seen an early silent film in 1911 she decided to turn her hand to a screenplay for one-reelers. Over the next … Read more