Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, archetypal hard-boiled private detective
Los Angeles, Fall 1945
Film: The Big Sleep
Release Date: August 23, 1946
Director: Howard Hawks
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is a pretty special day for me, and I’d like to celebrate the woman who is the Bacall to my Bogie by reflecting on The Big Sleep, which was originally released in theaters 70 years ago tomorrow, eight days after its premiere on August 23, 1946.
The Big Sleep was the second of four films starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The had originally met while filming her cinematic debut, To Have and Have Not, which was released on October 11, 1944, the very day after production began on The Big Sleep. (To Have and Have Not is also the first movie that my girlfriend and I watched together!)
At the time, Bogie was still married to his third wife, Mayo Methot, although their union was a disastrous one that was already on the brink by the time the 44-year-old actor met the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall. Director Howard Hawks disapproved of the Bacall-Bogart affair from the start, and he even tried to set her up with Clark Gable to try to dissuade her from pursuing an affair with Bogart. True love prevailed, however, and one of the most famous marriages in Hollywood history officially kicked off on May 21, 1945, four months after production ended on The Big Sleep and three months after Bogart filed for divorce from Methot.
The Bacall-Bogart romance instantly became a cultural phenomenon. Her agent, Charles K. Feldman, conspired with legendary producer Jack L. Warner to use The Big Sleep as an opportunity to cash in on the newlyweds, so several scenes were re-shot to emphasize the romance between Philip Marlowe and Vivian Rutledge, further complicating the plot but cementing their red-hot chemistry on screen under the re-direction of a begrudging Howard Hawks, who made them promise not to get “mushy all the time”.
Production on the original version of The Big Sleep wrapped on January 12, 1945, but the Bacall-Bogart marriage and the end of World War II meant the innuendo-laden re-shoots didn’t begin until January 2, 1946. (For an in-depth comparison of the original version and the theatrical release, check out this page.)
One example of a prominently changed scene finds Vivian meeting Marlowe to tell him that her father, General Sternwood, wants to officially end the case for which he hired the P.I. The original version has a black veiled Vivian visiting Marlowe in his office, followed by some straightforward and only slightly flirtatious dialogue and Marlowe calling up Eddie Mars for a meeting that evening. In the theatrical version re-shot a year later, Marlowe meets a now glamorously-dressed Vivian in a café, where they each enjoy a Scotch (“mixed” for her, served with plain water for him) and quickly get the same expository dialogue out of the way before laying on the risqué talk about playing horses and who’s in who’s saddle.
Despite Hawks’ reluctance to direct the happy couple, the mood on set was markedly more positive by the time of the 1946 re-shoots. During the original production, Bogart’s inner conflict between his marriage to Methot and his love for Bacall led to Bacall’s hands shaking whenever her character was lighting a cigarette or pouring a drink. The re-shoots were supposedly so much fun that Bacall recalled a memo from Jack L. Warner that said: “Word has reached me that you are having fun on the set. This must stop.”
And fun it must have been, as Bogie and Bacall went on to co-star in two more classics – Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948) – and establishing their place in Hollywood history as one of the greatest couples of all time.
What’d He Wear?
One of the three suits that Humphrey Bogart wears in his lone but iconic outing as Philip Marlowe is a dark chalkstripe woolen flannel two-piece suit with a double-breasted jacket. Marlowe wears this suit for many of his “romantic” moments with Vivian, including the re-shot café scene and the sequence at Eddie Mars’ gambling den.
The dark chalkstripe flannel double-breasted suit appears to have been a real-life preference for Humphrey Bogart during this period, who also sported similar suits in The Roaring Twenties and The Maltese Falcon, among other films. This may even be the exact same suit that he wore in Conflict, filmed and released in 1945 between re-shoots of The Big Sleep. (Both this suit and the Conflict suit have four-on-two button fronts and 3-button cuffs.)
Since The Big Sleep was filmed and released in black and white, there’s no way of knowing the original color of the suit unless an official record exists from the production. Contemporary promotional art from the film’s release has colorized the suit to be both navy blue and charcoal gray, both fine options for a soft flannel chalkstripe suit.
Double-breasted jackets were very stylish during the 1940s, although the extra fabric required often meant sales were restricted during the war years. Marlowe wears a four-button suit jacket with two to close. The sharp peak lapels have straight gorges and a buttonhole through the left lapel. The padded shoulders with roped sleeveheads, suppressed waist, and ventless back all follow the era’s fashion while strengthening Bogart’s slight frame to create a strong and suave appearance.
The straight hip pockets are jetted without flaps, typical for a double-breasted jacket, and Marlowe wears a white linen display kerchief in his welted breast pocket. This handkerchief has a white silk overcheck for a subtle contrast that adds a touch of luxury.
Since Marlowe keeps his jacket buttoned throughout the theatrical version released in 1946, the trousers are best seen in the original 1945 version when Marlowe is surprised by Vivian at his office. The long rise of his trousers means that Marlowe has to unbutton the jacket to comfortably access the keys that he keeps in his right-hand pocket, attached by a chain to a belt loop on the right side of his fly. This reveals that the trousers have double forward pleats, unlike his other suit pants which have double reverse pleats.
This scene also reveals that Marlowe is wearing the same slim decorative-tooled leather belt with Western style points like the metal tip and the ranger-shaped single-claw buckle. These thin Western-influenced belts were popular among men in the 1940s according to VintageDancer.com; Marlowe’s belt is likely brown leather with a silver-toned buckle like all of the examples shown on VintageDancer.com’s page.
Marlowe also appears to be wearing the same light-colored shirt. Too dark on screen to be pure white, it’s likely ecru, light gray, or possibly even a pale blue to match the suggested color of the suit. It has a long-pointed spread collar and front placket. If styled like his other shirts, the squared cuffs close with a single button as well as a smaller button on the gauntlets.
The tie may also be the same with its dark color and short length with the wide blade pointing to just above the waistband of the high-rise trousers. Contemporary colorization of this outfit almost always reddens the tie to a maroon or dark brick shade.
Marlowe’s shoes are dark cap-toe oxfords, likely the same black calf leather shoes he wears throughout.
What would a private eye be without his snap-brim fedora? Marlowe’s Royal Stetson fedora is dark felt, probably gray, with a wide black grosgrain ribbon.
When he ventures out to Eddie Mars’ Cypress Club, Marlowe sports the same glen-check wool knee-length topcoat that he also wore with his dark birdseye suit.
This single-breasted coat has a four-button front, a large collar, and a uniquely ventless back. The cuffs are plain with no buttons or straps, keeping the arms from jamming up when he stuffs his hands into the coat’s straight welt side pockets.
Bogie’s real-life preference for a Longines Evidenza wristwatch is well-known in addition to being well-displayed in Casablanca. I don’t believe he was wearing this watch elsewhere in The Big Sleep, although the square-cased watch secured to his left wrist by a brown leather strap in these scenes may indeed be his Longines.
Although there’s still some debate about the watch, Bogart is definitely wearing his own yellow gold ring that has become iconic in its own right. Most likely inherited from his father, Bogart’s ring with its ruby-diamond-ruby setting was almost always spotted on the third finger of his right hand both on and off screen over the last two decades of his life. Replicas are available at The Hollywood Collection, The Hollywood Originals, and Amazon.
What to Imbibe
I could see Vivian Regan’s black head close to it, from across the room where I was leaning against the bar and turning a small glass of bacardi around on the mahogany.
– The Big Sleep, Chapter 22
In Chandler’s novel, Philip Marlowe is enjoying a Bacardi cocktail at Eddie Mars’ Cypress Club in the fictional L.A. suburb of Las Olindas when he spots Vivian Regan across the room. About fifty years after the Bacardi family opened its distillery in 1862, recipes for a pre-dinner cocktail featuring Bacardi rum began appearing across the United States. The concoction of rum, grenadine, and lime spread from New York to California in the years leading up to World War I and, by 1917, publications like Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks were officially naming it the “Bacardi cocktail”.
Essentially a Daiquiri with grenadine instead of simple syrup, the American recipe for a Bacardi hasn’t changed much over the last century. The IBA specifies 4.5 centiliters of white rum, two centiliters of lime juice, and one centiliter of grenadine, all shaken together over ice. The drink is then strained into a cocktail glass, garnished with a lime slice, and served. Given the name, it would make the most sense to use Bacardi brand rum as the main ingredient, and it’s worth noting that Bacardi was the first clear rum introduced to the world.
Marlowe seems to enjoy his cocktail, at least more than the Cypress Club bartender who mixed it:
“I’ll take her home,” I said.
“The hell you will. Well, I wish you luck anyways. Should I gentle up that bacardi or do you like it the way it is?”
“I like it the way it is as well as I like it at all,” I said.
“Me, I’d just as leave drink croup medicine,” he said.
With its bold chalkstripes and sweeping double-breasted front, this suit is clearly the one Marlowe wears when he wants to make a more romantic impression than his more run-of-the-mill single-breasted business suits would provide.
- Dark chalkstripe woolen flannel two-piece suit, consisting of:
- Double-breasted 4-on-2-button jacket with sharp peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Double forward-pleated trousers with belt loops, straight on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffed bottoms
- Light cotton dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, and squared 1-button cuffs
- Dark short necktie with wide bottom
- Brown decorative-tooled slim leather belt with small single-claw buckle and metal tip
- Black calf leather cap-toe oxford shoes
- Black wool dress socks
- Dark gray felt snap-brim Royal Stetson fedora with wide black grosgrain ribbon
- Glen check wool single-breasted 4-button topcoat with large collar, straight welted hand pockets, plain cuffs, and ventless back
- Square-cased wristwatch on brown leather strap
- Gold ring with two rubies and diamond
Being a detective, it makes sense that Philip Marlowe’s go-to piece would be a Colt Detective Special, which he keeps in a concealed under-dash compartment in his Plymouth alongside a longer-barreled Colt revolver.
Although he uses a piece of pipe held like a gun in Chandler’s book, the cinematic Marlowe packs a Detective Special when defending Vivian from a paid Mars thug outside the Cypress Club. Easily concealable with its 2″ “snubnose” barrel and packing a powerful punch with six rounds of .38 Special ammunition, the Colt Detective Special was a favorite of both cops and crooks from its introduction in 1927 through today.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Never mind talking, let me do it.
If you’re looking for Las Olindas to visit Eddie Mars’ Cypress Club, good luck. Raymond Chandler invented the place, likely basing it on El Segundo or Manhattan Beach as ScoutingLA.com discovered.