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 didn’t like it very much, and he said so.)

   What’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 it’s 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.”