Search Results for 'The Big Sleep'

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini

RAYMOND CHANDLER – The Big Sleep. Philip Marlowe #1. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1939. Avon Murder Mystery Monthly #7, digest paperback, 1942; New Avon Library [#38], paperback, 1943. Movie photoplay edition: World, hardcover, 1946. Reprinted many times since. Film: Warner Bros., 1946 (screenwriters William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; director Howard Hawks; Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe). Also: United Artists, 1978 (screenwriter-director: Michael Winner; Robert Mitchum as Marlowe).

   It is difficult to imagine what the modern private eye story would be like if a forty-five-old ex-oil company executive named Raymond Chandler had not begun writing fiction for Black Mask in 1933. In his short stories and definitely in his novels, Chandler took the hardboiled prototype established by Dashiell Hammett, reshaped it to fit his own particular vision and the exigencies of life in southern California, smoothed off its rough edges, and made of it something more than a tale of realism and violence; he broadened it into a vehicle for social commentary, refined it with prose at once cynical and poetic, and elevated the character of the private eye to a mythical status — “down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

   Chandler’s lean, tough, wisecracking style set the tone for all subsequent private-eye fiction, good and bad. He is certainly the most imitated writer in the genre, and next to Hemingway, perhaps the most imitated writer in the English language. (Howard Browne, the creator of PI Paul Pine, once made Chandler laugh at a New York publishing party by introducing himself and saying, “It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Chandler. I’ve been making a living off your work for years.”

   Even Ross Macdonald, for all his literary intentions, was at the core a Chandler imitator: Lew Archer would not be Lew Archer, indeed might not have been born at all, if Chandler had not created Philip Marlowe.

   The Big Sleep , Chandler’s first novel, is a blending and expansion of two of his Black Mask novelettes, “Killer in the Rain” (January 1935) and “The Curtain” (September 1936) — a process Chandler used twice more, in creating Farewell, My Lovely and The Lady in the Lake, and which he candidly referred to as “cannibalizing.”

   It is Philip Marlowe’s first bow. Marlowe does not appear in any of Chandler’s pulp stories, at least not by name: the first person narrators of “Killer in the Rain” (unnamed) and “The Curtain” (Carmody) are embryonic Marlowes, with many of his attributes. The Big Sleep is also Chandler’s best-known title, by virtue of the well-made 1944 film version directed by Howard Hawks and starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Elisha Cook, Jr.

   On one level, this is a complex murder mystery with its fair share of clues and corpses. On another level, it is a serious novel concerned (as is much of Chandler’s work) with the corrupting influences of money and power. Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood, an old paralyzed ex-soldier who made a fortune in oil, to find out why a rare-book dealer named Arthur Gwynn Giger is holding his IOU signed by Sternwood’s youngest daughter, the wild and immoral Carmen, and where a blackmailing abler named Joe Brody fits into the picture.

   Marlowe’s investigation embroils him with Sternwood’s other daughter, Vivian, and her strangely missing husband, Rusty, a former bootlegger; a thriving pornography racket; a gaggle of gangsters, not the least of which is a nasty piece of work named Eddie Mars; hidden vices and family scandals; and several murders. The novel’s climax is more ambiguous and satisfying than the film’s rather pat one.

    The Big Sleep is not Chandler’s best work; its plot is convoluted and tends to be confusing, and there are loose ends that are never explained or tied off. Nevertheless, it is still a powerful and riveting novel, packed with fascinating characters and evocatively told. Just one small sample of Chandler’s marvelous prose:

   The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the cloying smell of tropical orchids in bloom. The glass walls and roof were heavily misted and big drops of moisture splashed down on the plants. The light had a unreal greenish color, like light filtered through an aquarium. The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men. They smelled as overpowering as boiling alcohol under a blanket.

   That passage is quintessential Chandler; if it doesn’t stir your blood and make you crave more, as it always does for this reviewer, he probably isn’t your cup of bourbon.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.


RAYMOND CHANDLER – The Big Sleep. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1939. Reprinted many times, in both hardcover and paperback, including Avon Murder Mystery Monthly #7, 1942; New Avon Library 38, 1943; Pocket 696, 1950; Pocket 2696, 4th printing, 1958.


Film: Warner Bros., 1946 (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall; scw: William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; dir: Howard Hawks). Also: United Artists, 1978 (Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles; scw & dir: Michael Winner).

   Speaking of Film Adaptations of Classic Mysteries, Howard Hawks used to reminisce to interviewers about the scene in a book shop in The Big Sleep (Warner Bros., 1946) to the effect of: “I said to Bogart, ‘This scene is awfully ordinary; can’t we do something to liven it up?’ and he put on a pair of glasses and started lisping and camping it up, and it was funny, so I said, ‘Great! Let’s go with that.'”

   Which is a good story, except that the passage in Chandler’s novel is written just like that: glasses, obnoxious effeminacy and all. Granted, the scene in Chandler’s book isn’t as funny as the one in Hawks’ movie, but ’tis there and ’twill serve.


   The Big Sleep (Knopf, 1939) was another book I read in High School, but I reread it my senior year in College, and I revisit it every ten years or so since then, always finding something fresh and readable to make me glad I came back. The plot is a mess, and the quality of Chandler’s prose is sometimes strained when it should drop like the gentle rain from heaven on the place beneath, but when it works well, there’s nothing like it, and Sleep brings a colorful cast of bit players to pulp-life with energy delightful to behold.

   Again, there’s room to carp. Chandler’s handling of gay characters is hysterically unsympathetic (“… I took plenty of the punch. It was meant to be a hard one, but a pansy has no iron in his bones whatever he looks like.”) and describing an over-decorated house, Marlowe says it “…had the stealthy nastiness of a fag party.” Well how would he know?


   And again, that’s just carping about a classic. The Big Sleep works on several levels, and offers some happy surprises along the way. I particularly liked the passage cataloguing the detritus of a shabby office building where Marlowe notes, “against a scribbled wall a pouch of ringed rubber had fallen and not been disturbed.”

   Nowadays of course, a writer would just say “used condom” and be done with it, but Chandler’s coy self-censorship offers the kind of unique charm that seems lately to have gone the way of all flesh.

   Damn. Two references to Shakespeare and one to Samuel Butler in a single review of The Big Sleep; that’s gotta set some record for pretentiousness.

   As a followup to an earlier discussion about the movie version of The Big Sleep here on the Mystery*File blog:

Trailer for The Big Sleep.

The Babes of The Big Sleep.

The Big Sleep: Bogart and Bacall.

Dorothy Malone in The Big Sleep.

Martha Vickers in The Big Sleep.

   At this rate, it won’t be long before the entire movie is up on YouTube. Thanks to Jeff Pierce, head man at The Rap Sheet, for getting me started in looking.

   Peter Rozovsky has just left a comment after my review of Step by Step, posted about this same time yesterday. Peter found what NY Times movie critic Bosley Crowther said about the film to be very interesting. (Crowther didnt like it very much, and he said so.)

   Whats even more interesting is that in the same column Crowther also reviewed the film version of The Big Sleep, which many people today find one of the classics of the hard-boiled private eye genre. He didnt care for this one either, and he said so and at even greater length. You can read the entire review online yourself, and you should, but here are some excerpts:

   If somebody had only told us the script-writers, preferably just what it is that happens in the Warners’ and Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep, we might be able to give you a more explicit and favorable report on this over-age melodrama which came yesterday to the Strand. But with only the foggiest notion of who does what to whom and we watched it with closest attention we must be frankly disappointing about it.

Big Sleep

   For The Big Sleep is one of those pictures in which so many cryptic things occur amid so much involved and devious plotting that the mind becomes utterly confused. And, to make it more aggravating, the brilliant detective in the case is continuously making shrewd deductions which he stubbornly keeps to himself. What with two interlocking mysteries and a great many characters involved, the complex of blackmail and murder soon becomes a web of utter bafflement. Unfortunately, the cunning script-writers have done little to clear it at the end.


   Through it all, Humphrey Bogart stalks his cold and laconic way as the resolute private detective who has a mind and a body made of steel. And Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Bogart) plays the older of the daughters languidly. (Miss Bacall is a dangerous looking female, but she still hasn’t learned to act.) A dozen or so other actors play various tramps and tough guys acidly, and the whole thing comes off a poisonous picture lasting a few minutes shy of two hours.

   On the other hand, to pick a critic whose comments are always handy, Leonard Maltin gives The Big Sleep four stars (****) and in part agreeing with Crowther says, So convoluted even [Raymond] Chandler didnt know who committed one murder, then going on immediately to say, but so incredibly entertaining that no one has ever cared. Powerhouse direction, unforgettable dialogue…

   I realize that its unfair not to give Mr. Crowther a chance to reconsider and later on perhaps he did. No one always gets everything right the first time, and I do mean no one.

   And, just in case you might be wondering, Mr. Maltin gives Step by Step two stars (**), but other than a one line summary of the plot, his only critical judgment is that it is a patriotic programmer.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


ERLE STANLEY GARDNER – The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece. Morrow, hardcover, 1936. Pocket #277, paperback, 1944. Reprinted many times since. TV Adaptation: Perry Mason, 28 September 1957 (Season 1 Episode 2), with Raymond Burr as Perry Mason.

   Perry Mason is approached by a “peculiar” client – Edna Hammer. who seeks help for her uncle, Peter Kent. Kent has a bad habit of sleepwalking. and when he does, he heads for (he carving knives and curls up in bed with one. Edna is afraid Uncle Peter will kill someone, and she wants Mason to prevent this.

   Kent has other troubles: a wife who instituted divorce proceedings on account of the sleepwalking but now wishes to reconcile; a fiancee whom he wishes to marry but can’t unless the divorce goes through: a complicated business arrangement with a “cracked-brained inventor”; a hypochondriac half brother; and a woman tailing him in a green Packard roadster. Mason spends a night at the Kent home, and by the next morning there is a bloodstained knife under Peter Kent’s pillow, a corpse in the guest room, and a client in very hot water.

   The writing in this early novel is taut and lean — reflective of Gardner’s hard-boiled work for such pulp magazines as Black Mask. The dialogue is terse and packs a good impact. and there are none of the long-winded conversations and introspections that characterize the later Perry Masons. A first-rate example of Gardner’s work in the Thirties and early Forties.

   Some other notable titles in the series are The Case of the Black-Eyed Blond (l944), The Case of the Lazy Lover (1947), The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister (1953), and The Case of1he Daring Decoy (1957). After the late Fifties, the novels seem to lose something, possibly as a result of Gardner’s work on the Perry Mason TV series. Mason is less flamboyant. and the plots are not as intricate or well tied off as in the earlier novels.

   Gardner created other series characters, writing under both his own name and the pseudonym A. A. Fair. The best of these under the Gardner name arc small-1own prosecutor Doug Selhy (The D.A. Calls It Murder, 1937; The D.A. Cooks a Goose, 1942). whose role as a hero is a reverse of Hamilton Burger’s; and Gramps Wiggins (The Case of the Turning Tide, 1941; The Case of he Smoking Chimney, 1943), an iconoclastic old prospector whose experiences reflect Gardner’s childhood travels with his mining-engineer father.

   In addition to his novels, Gardner wrote hundreds of mystery and western stories under various names for such magazines as Argosy, Black Mask, SunsetWest, and Outdoor Stories.

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.


   Originally recorded by rockabilly legend Jody Reynolds in 1958, “Endless Sleep” has been covered by numerous artists over the years. One of my favorite interpretations of this song is by Billy Idol, former frontman of the British punk band Generation X.


FRANCIS BEEDING – The Seven Sleepers. Professor Kreutzemark #1. Hutchinson, UK, hardcover, 1925. Little Brown, US, hardcover, 1925.

    “I don’t like it, Tom,” she said. “All sorts of queer things are happening just now, and Geneva is always full of international agents of every kind.”

    “International agents!” I exclaimed. “But this is real life. I’ve got a British passport and I’m Thomas Preston of Jebbutt and Jebbutt.”

    “Don’t make any mistake,” said Beatrice. “My chief has told me a good deal about these things. He used to be in the French Intelligence Department.”

    “I don’t see how on earth it can possibly concern me,” I objected.

   Thomas Preston is a British traveling man in Post WWI Europe (a Europe that has just received the first awakening call of what is to come with Mussolini) who finds himself in Geneva, home of the League of Nations (which features prominently in most of Beeding’s thrillers since the two men who wrote under that name both worked there), when his luggage takes a side trip. Not that he is averse to visiting Geneva where the beautiful Beatrice Harvel is working for the League, and as it turns out, for Henri Laval who Preston knew from the war.

   Even before calling on Beatrice, Tom’s visit has been an interesting one, beginning with a strange little man approaching him as if he knew him, shoving a document in his hands, and then promptly being arrested, and then a letter from someone claiming to be Tom’s grandmother setting forth a meeting the next day. These are the things Beatrice doesn’t like and with good reason.

   But no Englishman in the fiction of the between-the-war period, and few since the days of Anthony Hope and the Play-Actor, ever manages to ignore such intriguing mysteries, and in the shadow of John Buchan and Richard Hannay, it would seem practically treasonous. Somehow even when the saner, less adventurous heroes of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene came along, they still somehow never quite managed to ignore that siren song no matter how hard they tried.

   Hero or feckless coward it seems impossible to avoid adventure in a British thriller.

   The Seven Sinners is the work of Francis Beeding (John Leslie Palmer and Hilary Aidan St. George Saunders), best remembered today for the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes, filmed as Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, and a fine mystery suspense serial killer novel Death Walks in Eastrepps.

   In their lifetime, though, they were known as one of the most popular and purveyors of the novel of adventure and international intrigue. Along with the likes of Valentine Williams, they were authors of many stand alone novels (The Norwich Victims, The 2 Undertakers, Eleven Were Brave, The Five Flamboys, The Six Walkers, The Twelve Disguises, The Three Fishers, Nine Waxed Faces — if you note a theme here …) as well as the Colonel Alistair Granby series.

   This is the first novel in the shorter Professor Kreutzemark series, and a good introduction to the pleasures of Beeding in thriller mode. Like their rival Valentine Williams, the team has some decided skills as a writers of this sort of thing, an eye for drama (keep in mind the plot devices that seem so familiar now were still pretty fresh then), and they probably knew the European scene as well as any British writers until Eric Ambler, especially Switzerland and the international environs around Geneva.

   In short order Tom finds himself calling on his ‘grandmother’ who proves to be a a German Professor (He had a fine silky beard, neatly trimmed and of a bright gold, a broad forehead and well-set eyes, a straight nose, and a complexion almost feminine in its delicacy. At the first view he suggested an intelligent and sensitive philanthropist, reclusive in temperament.), and two other Germans (Uncle Ulrich and Uncle Fritz), and has killed a man in self defense.

   It’s clear the three have mistaken Tom for someone else, and equally clear they are up to something shady involving German resurgence after the war and with the mysterious Seven Sleepers of the title financing their scheme.

   Escapes and hurried journeys, near run things, dual identities, trusted allies (a refreshingly international lot in this case), betrayal, sudden set-backs, and a plot to attack London and Paris with the Professor’s nasty X-3 gas that could “…destroy all forms of vegetable or animal life within a radius of 400 square kilometres” are all the elements expertly handled by Beeding.

   (As Richard Usborne points out in his study of popular fiction between the wars The Clubland Heroes, a good paper could be written on the use of deadly gas in the post War era, so great were the memories of its horrors, Bulldog Drummond and the Saint both encountering the nasty stuff along with just about every other hero.)

   Old fashioned, true (…that fate should have permitted me to assist in foiling the powers of malice and disorder which in every age must be encountered and freshly overcome if men are to keep and to increase their inheritance), but half the fun lies in the familiar elements in these books and the skills with which the writer deploys them.

   Though hardly in a class with Buchan or Yates, Beeding is still an entertaining read with a moment or two of the kind of ‘fine writing’ John Buchan’s literate thrillers instilled in the genre, with only an occasional need to wince at attitudes of another age, and superior plot spinning and settings. The boys knew their Europe both geographically and politically.    (*)

   Professor Kreutzemark, the silky bearded one, of course lives to scheme another day, and indeed Thomas Preston and he cross swords again in The Hidden Kingdom for the last time. No really good villain should be expected to give up the ghost that easy, and there isn’t much doubt that Beeding had a success as great as Valentine Williams Adolph Von Grundt, Clubfoot, in mind even if it eluded him for the Professor, only to find it with the clever and heroic Colonel Granby. Too bad, because Kreutzemark had his moments as mad German professors go, and a bit of style is appreciated in any field, perhaps especially villainy.

   (*) One has to wonder that any reader of popular British thriller fiction was at all taken by surprise by the rise of Hitler and the rebirth of a dangerous Germany. The fiction of the era barely let the poison gas clear from the trenches before imagining fellows in Prussian haircuts, mad doctors, armaments dealers, and shady fellows in high finance plotting the next war, certainly after the mid twenties when Mussolini raised his ugly shaved head.

Granted, most writers were more subtle with Germany never quite spelled out, and Russia and the Reds came in for no small amount of plotting themselves (Sapper was about evenly divided between Germans and Russians sometimes rather remarkably managing to have both working together, but then politics was not his strong point), but it does seem at times as if anyone who bothered to crack a book would have been well advised to invest in a bomb shelter or leave the continent.


SLEEP, MY LOVE. United Artists, 1948. Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, Robert Cummings, George Coulouris and Hazel Brooks. Written by Leo Rosten, St Clair McKelway, Decla Dunning and Cy Endfield. Directed by Douglas Sirk.

   A stylish variation on Gaslight, with Claudette Colbert waking on a train to Boston with no idea how she got there, aided by a too-helpful and rather snoopy stranger (Queenie Smith) and bundled back home in the charming company of Bob Cummings.

   Cut to her New York mansion where we see her presumably distraught husband (Don Ameche) reporting her missing to a somewhat sinister police detective (Raymond Burr), and it’s easy to see she’s “the victim of some diabolical mind control” as they say in the Movies.

   What could have been a simple copycat film emerges as a gripping, humorous, real and very elegant movie, thanks to witty writing, clever acting, and the emotive direction of Douglas Sirk. Sirk always had a feel for décor, but here he evokes Colbert’s mansion-prison into a landscape that seems to determine the fate of the characters in it; people are constantly struggling up and down staircases, perching on furniture, darting from bedroom to bedroom… and there’s a frosted glass door that hides a meaning all its own.

   Ms Colbert in her 40s radiates a mature sensuality, perfectly matched by Don Ameche’s slippery solicitude. Both of them come up against George Coulouris’ obsessive would-be mastermind, and whoever wrote Cummings’ dialogue had a perfect feel for Bob’s bemused charm. His encounters with the bad guys show off a vivid contrast of acting styles that translates into real conflict on the screen.

   But the most arresting screen presence in Sleep, My Love belongs to an actress whose career went nowhere: Hazel Brooks as Daphne, a femme fatale whose merest glance could freeze molten lava. Next to her, the bad girls of Detour and Double Indemnity look like the Flying Nun — even more effective because she never does anything very criminal here, but always looks like she’d rather be pulling the wings off flies.

   In all, this is a superb film, one that should be better-celebrated in the realms of Noir and Romantic Suspense. And one you should seek out for a fine, fun evening.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini

DOLORES HITCHENS – Sleep with Slander. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1960. Permabook M-4243, paperback, 1962; Berkley, paperback, 1969.

   Many people seem to feel that the best hard-boiled male private-eye novel written by a woman is Leigh Brackett’s No Good from a Corpse (reviewed here ). But that may because many people haven’t read Sleep with Slander. For the undersigned reviewer’s money, this is the best hard-boiled private-eye novel written by a woman — and one of the best written by anybody.

   Its protagonist, Long Beach-based Jim Sader, is a multidimensional character, much more realistic than the stereotypical tough detective; Sader uses his intelligence to accomplish his purposes. The plot, reminiscent in its complexity of both Chandler and Ross Macdonald, is better crafted, more compelling, and ultimately more satisfying than the Brackett.

   Sader is hired by a rich old man, Hale Gibbings, whose daughter gave birth to an illegitimate child five years earlier. The child, Ricky, was given away for adoption, not through a recognized agency but to a private couple, and Gibbings has heard nothing about the boy until recently, when an anonymous letter writer tells him the child is being mentally and physically abused.

   Sader undertakes the search for Ricky, following a trail that leads him to a conniving friend of Tina Champlain, the adoptive (and now presumed dead) mother; to a violent builder of boats and his drunken father; to murder, extortion, double-dealing, madness; and finally to the truth. The surprises Hitchens springs along the way are not at all easy to anticipate. A first-rate novel recommended not just to fans s of the hard-boiled school but for anyone who appreciates a quality mystery.

   Hitchens wrote one other novel featuring Sader: Sleep with Strangers (1957). This is also good reading, but marred by sentimentality and a shaky ending that reveals the wrong choice of murderer.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.


CHARLES EINSTEIN – The Bloody Spur. Dell 1st Edition #5, paperback original, 1953. Black Curtain Press, softcover, 2013.

WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS. RKO, 1956. Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Howard Duff, Thomas Mitchell, Sally Forrest, Ida Lupino, James Craig, Vincent Price, John Drew Barrymore. Robert Warwick. Screenplay by Casey Robinson, based on the novel The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein. Directed by the one & only Fritz Lang.

   Okay. At the time of this writing, and from all I can tell, this is the earliest film to be based on a paperback original. I’m open to other suggestions.

   Einstein’s book is what I call a novel-novel: a diverse cast of characters interacting in a dramatic but realistic situation, having affairs, changing jobs, getting drunk, palling around, quarreling and otherwise getting some drama into their day-to-day lives.

   In this case the impetus is the death of the second-in-command at the Kyne Publishing empire (the book opens, in fact, at his funeral) and the hustling of high-ranking underlings to get promoted to his place. As a sub-plot, there is a serial killer terrorizing New York and the race to the near-top quickly devolves into a competition to be the first with the scoop on the identity of the killer, an undertaking that turns into detective work, seduction, betrayal, and more drinking — these newsmen all act like they think they’re in a Fredric Brown story.

   Einstein does a capable job of cutting between them, though: a crusty old newspaper editor, an ambitious chief of wire services, a lascivious female columnist and a philandering ad man, punctuating the story with some catchy lower-level lives: a smart crime reporter, another not-so-smart reporter, cops, secretaries… and the killer himself.

   I said “capable” not “brilliant.” The Blood Spur will keep you reading, but it’s not the sort of thing one remembers for long or with a great deal of affection: passable but not much more. Surprising then that the film made from it is (to use a hack’s pet phrase) so gripping and suspenseful.

   Well, maybe not all that surprising. Director Fritz Lang mastered the Movies in the 1920s, adapted to social commentary in the 30s, moved to international intrigue and film noir in the 40s, and the 50s found him still attuned to the times, with an edgy rock-and-roll tempo that seems to roar right out of The Wild One.

   Of course it helps that he had a cast like that. Dana Andrews and Sally Forrest play the reporter/secretary couple with affection that never turns to cuteness, George Sanders is his reliably scheming self, playing nicely off Thomas Mitchell’s ink-stained editor, and Vincent Price is agreeably slimy as the big boss manipulating them all. Also I should make special mention of Ida Lupino as the -um- flirtatious columnist radiating no-nonsense sex appeal that contrasts nicely with Rhonda Fleming’s duplicitous trophy wife.

   With a few exceptions (which I’ll get to later) Casey Robinson’s screenplay follows Einstein’s novel closely — sometimes eerily so. Little bits of business, place names and odd phrases like “in cold daylight” appear on the screen with surprising faithfulness in a medium that was never known for its fidelity. But the changes are even more significant.

   Starting with the ending, well, in the book it’s pretty prosaic; the killer tries to assault a stranger ”in cold daylight,” a chase through the subway tunnels ensues, and if you can’t guess the outcome I won’t spoil it for you except to say one of our intrepid newsmen gets the scoop. In the film however, reporter Dana Andrews decides that the best way to catch the killer is to use his fiancée as bait, putting a personal and more involving twist on the proceedings.

   (PARENTHETICAL NOTE: I don’t know about you, but to me having your betrothed use you as the potential victim of a mad killer is a sign that this relationship may be in trouble. I’m just saying….)

   Another note of interest: in the novel, the killer obsessively reads the Bible; in the movie, he’s had his mind warped by Comic Books, and thank you, Dr. Wertham; I don’t think the Legion of Decency would have let them get away with that anyway.

   And finally, there’s a delicious in-joke near the beginning: The book kicks off with the death of the second-in-command at Kyne Enterprises; in the film the story is kicked off by the death of the patriarch himself, leaving his son (Vincent Price) to select someone to actually run the damn thing. Price lets the competition hinge on a comment his late daddy made about catching the serial killer – thus making While the City Sleeps the second film centered around the last words of a dead publisher whose name starts with “K.”

   No prizes for guessing the first.