Cinema Station

Oh, Dorothy Malone: A Scene from The Big Sleep | June 29, 2010

In the middle of the tangled mystery that is The Big Sleep, there is this little scene I want to tell you about.

After asking a phony bookshop for a “Ben-Hur 1863, third edition with a duplicate line on page 116″ with no success, Bogie’s Marlowe travels across the street to a real bookshop where he runs into a clerk (Dorothy Malone).  She’s a young girl, plain with glasses: a real looker.

She gets the drift.  There is no such book.  The dialogue goes something like this.

She: You begin to interest me, vaguely.

He: I’m a… private dick on a case.  Perhaps I’m asking too much, although it doesn’t seem too much to me, somehow.

She describes the man Bogie is looking for.

He: You’d make a good cop.

She: You gonna wait for him to come out?

He: Yeah.

She: Well, they don’t close for another hour or so.  It’s raining pretty hard.

He: I got my car.

Then he sees the look on her face.

He: That’s right, it is isn’t it?  You know it just happens I got a bottle of pretty good rye in my pocket.  I’d a lot rather get wet in here.

She: Well…

She shuts the door to the shop and turns the sign over to CLOSED.

She: Looks like we’re closed for the rest of the afternoon.

This is one of my favorite scenes in movies, and certainly one of my favorite Hawks scenes.  The Big Sleep was directed by him, Howard Hawks, in 1946, it stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.  It was adapted from the novel by Raymond Chandler; the screenwriters were William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman.




  1. One of my favorite scenes, too. It was one of the scenes that showed me that old movies could be dirty, too — it’s a different, cooler kind of dirty.

    Great post.

    Comment by 50swesterns — July 24, 2010 @ 2:08 am

  2. I love this scene also. What’s cool to me is how it showed a woman who wasn’t the vamp to be in charge of her own sexuality. She seduces Bogart. Very cool.

    Comment by Larry — November 4, 2010 @ 2:04 am

  3. I, too, an enamoured of this scene. In fact, I’m writing about it for the next issue of my bimonthly film noir newsletter, The Dark Pages. I love the exchanges between Bogart and Malone, as well as his interaction with the other two women earlier in the scene, in the library and in Geiger’s bookstore. He was a smooth one, all right.

    Comment by Karen — November 7, 2010 @ 12:01 am

    • Don’t forget his brief interaction with the female cab driver who gives him her card and tells him, “If you could use me again some time call this number.” When he asks “Day or night?” she replies, “Night’s better. I work during the day.” Both woman are shown as liberated sexually and financially independent.

      Comment by Larry — November 28, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

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