14 July 2008

“I’m a private dick on a case...”

My friend and I were talking about some old Bogart and Bacall movies today, and I recalled this scene, one of my favorites in The Big Sleep and maybe one of my favorites in any movie.

While pursuing clues, Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) steps into a bookstore to ask some questions of the proprietress (played by Dorothy Malone). The scene lasts only about three minutes and it almost stands apart from the rest of the film; we never see the proprietress again. But there is something about this scene that I love: Bogie tough and charming as usual, in the manner only he can pull off; the lovely and scholarly Malone, obviously of above average intelligence, and possibly devoting her intelligence in that moment toward calculating a pretext to rub her loins against Bogart without seeming too forward. The store empties out and the rain comes and it is as if the two have been thrust together, alone on the earth, on a desert island - no, better: in a bomb shelter. The passion boils beneath the surface, intense precisely because of its reserve. What is not said or shown makes the scene. (Of course, the innuendo is unmistakable.) They just don’t write movies like that anymore.

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