Search Results for 'The Big Sleep'


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.


SLEEPING CAR TO TRIESTE. General Films, UK, 1948; Eagle-Lion, US, 1949. Jean Kent, Albert Leiven, Derek de Marney, Paul Dupuis, David Tomlinson, Alan Wheatley, Rona Anderson, Finlay Currie, Bonar Colleano, Zena Marshall, Grégorie Aslan, Hugh Burden. Screenplay by Allan MacKinnon from a story by Clifford Grey. Directed by John Paddy Carstairs.

   An excellent spy story set on a train (and the famed Orient Express at that), a setting I can never resist, with a top notch cast, and an involving and cannily observed Ship of Fools style script and cast.

   The film opens as suave adventurer Captain Zurta (Albert Leiven), in white tie and tails, robs an embassy safe in Paris during an embassy ball, cold-bloodedly kills a waiter who interrupts him, passes the diary he steals on to his associate Karl (Alan Wheatley) waiting outside, and rejoins his beautiful companion Valya (Jean Kent) to leave before they are discovered. Things start to go wrong though, when the next morning the two go to collect the diary and find Karl has double crossed them and fled to sell it on his own, catching the Simplon Orient Express (*) for Venice and Trieste (then a ‘free’ city between East and West whose very name suggested intrigue) and beyond to Zagreb and Istanbul.

   The urgency of catching up with Karl, traveling as Charles Poole expatriate Englishman, is demonstrated by Zurta’s own admission: “Beyond Trieste I’m a wanted man. Beyond Trieste I am dead.”

   Zurta and Valya just catch the train and it’s Grand Hotel of passengers, one of which is their quarry.

   Aboard the train is married divorce lawyer George Grant (Derek de Marney) and the innocent young women he is taking for an illicit holiday Joan Maxted (Rona Anderson); comic Englishman, and former client of Grant’s, Tom Bishop (David Tomlinson); skirt chasing American soldier Sgt. West (Bonar Colleano) and sharing his compartment a bird enthusiast who won’t shut up; a pair of beautiful French girls returning from a shopping holiday in Paris and leaving boxes of hats with all the men on the train to avoid the customs fees; train chef Poirier (Grégorie Aslan) saddled with an English son of one of the line’s board members who wants to learn to cook but thinks boiled cod and chips is a delicacy; and just Poole’s luck, the last minute companion in his compartment, Inspector Joif (Paul Dupuis) of the Paris police, hero of the resistance, and something of a French Sherlock Holmes.

   That sets off the game of musical compartments as Poole tries to get a compartment by himself, briefly succeeds, hiding the diary in the new one, then finds himself ejected as famous and penurious and vain international author McBain (Finlay Currie) and his abused secretary Mills (Hugh Burden) occupy the compartment.

   But they are only on the train until Trieste where Poole can get it back if he can find a place to stay away from Joif and the two hunting him, which is how he stumbles of the illicit lovers at lunch as they try to avoid the obnoxious Mr. Bishop who is a notorious gossip and determined to organize a poker game with Grant, who has other things on his mind.

   And when Zurta kills Poole and frames Grant only to find the diary is missing, all the differing threads begin to come together.

   Screenwriter Allan MacKinnon was not only a first class writer of film thrillers, but a top notch thriller writer in his own right (Cormorant Isle) often compared to Victor Canning and Geoffrey Household (no mean company for comparison). John Paddy Carstairs was a first class British director, and the cast, while devoid of big names save perhaps Kent, is a who’s who of top British and International character actors.

   Unusually the film hasn’t really got a hero per se. Grant, as played by de Marney, is a bit of a heel all too obviously leading the girl on, and her simpering willingness to be fooled detracts from too much sympathy for her character. Bishop, played with perfect obnoxious self centered British satisfaction and obliviousness by Tomlinson (Mary Poppins Mr. Banks), will save the day, but blindly and by butting in where he isn’t wanted.

   McBain finds and tries to save the diary for himself because it will harm a country that has shunned him and his secretary Mills finds it and tries to blackmail him with it, a worm who all too easily returns to worm status. Zurta is a cold blooded killer willing to sacrifice anyone along the way with no moral or political axe but his own need for adventure and money. Valya, is a little sympathetic, but only a little so and rather ruthless herself in pursuit of her ideals. As for Jolif, he is willing to hang whoever’s neck the noose fits, rather like some real Paris policemen I knew.

   That is probably why this one is such a delight. There is no United Nations message of international cooperation like Berlin Express and no dashing hero and spunky heroine like The Lady Vanishes. The train is filled with flawed people, not evil, even Zurta and Valya aren’t evil, just human beings caught up in their own comical and tragic dramas thrown together in an artificial environment and rather savagely, but with British reserve and taste, dissected as pressure is applied. The American is a girl chasing vulgarian (“We are tired of being liberated,” a French Zena Marshall tells him pointedly); the Scotsman is cheap, cruel, vain, and petty; the Brits are all insular and judgmental; and the Europeans all seem bored and a bit rude.

   But it is all so expertly played and written that despite that you recognize the characters as humans deserving of sympathy for all their flaws depending on their varying degrees of innocence.

   Sleeping car or not, no one, certainly not the audience, gets much sleep on this trip to Trieste.


* Just a note, but I traveled on the Orient Express in the seventies, and it never looked more like just another train than here. I suppose something to do with post-war austerity in England. The gilt and red velvet (the film is in black and white, but still …) are gone; there is no sense of the gilded cigar smoking cherubs on the dining car ceiling; and the windows in the compartments only open eighteen inches, not wide like British trains of that period as shown here.

   Granted the train was not its glorious self in 1948, and not fully restored until the nineties (it wasn’t really the famed Orient Express when I rode it, not exactly, still twenty years or so from the full restoration to the glory of the great years pre-WWI and between the wars), but it was still much more cosmopolitan and less British commuter train than it appears here, a small flaw in an otherwise delightful film.

William F. Deeck

TIM HEALD – Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Stein and Day, US, hardcover, 1976. Ballantine, US, paperback, 1981. First published in the UK by Hutchinson, hardcover, 1976.

    “Nothing can go wrong. It’s out of the question.” When Simon Bognor says this, it is time for the person spoken to to increase his insurance and to climb a tree, preferably pulling it up after him.

    As an employee of the Special Investigations Department of the Board of Trade, Bognor is assigned — and he’s not happy about it as he is never happy about his assignments — to investigate charges that an international gang is smuggling dogs out of England and back in again to take part in shows and breeding. In this way, the dogs do not have to undergo quarantine on their return to England as required by law.

    Not only does Bognor not like the assignment, he also has another problem: He loathes dogs. Indeed, “He had been known to kick out at perfectly inoffensive animals when the owners weren’t looking.” Nonetheless he starts visiting kennels and dog shows; at the end he likes dogs even less than he did.

    Despite what I felt was an abrupt ending, this is another wonderfully amusing episode in the career, if that’s the correct word, of one of mysterydom’s woefully inept detectives.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 4, Winter 1990, “Beastly Murders.”

Bibliographic Notes:   This is the fourth of thirteen recorded adventures of Simon Bognor, beginning with Unbecoming Habits in 1973 and continuing through Yet Another Death in Venice, which appeared in 2014 (with a gap of some 22 years between #10 and #11.)

   Four of the first five books, including Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, were telecast on British television as part of the series Bognor (ITV, 1981-82), starring David Horovitch in the title role.

Reviewed by DAN STUMPF:

SEBASTIEN JAPRISOT – The 10:30 from Marseilles. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1963. Pocket, paperback, 1964. Souvenir Press, UK, hardcover, 1964. Originally published as Compartiment Tueurs, Paris, 1962; translated into English by Francis Price.

THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS. Fox, 1966. First released in France, 1965, as Compartiment tueurs. Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Jean-Louiis Trintingnant, Michel Piccoli, Catherine Allegret and Jacques Perrin. Written and directed by Costa-Gravas.

   Two approaches to the same story, with striking differences.

   In the book, the 10:30 a.m. train from Marseilles pulls into Paris and the guy who cleans out the cars finds a dead woman, strangled in her berth (one of six) in a sleeping car. The Police begin their investigation at the logical place: find out who else was in that compartment and see what they know.

   Inspector Graziani and his assistant Jean-Lou get the unenviable assignment of tracking them down, with the dubious help of their superior, a sub-chief who likes to talk in pithy but useless aphorisms (“Cover everything. It’s always where you don’t look….”) whereupon….

   We cut to Berth 226 and the man who used it last night: What he was doing there, how he interacted with the other passengers, and his reaction on finding out the Police want to talk to him. Then, as he rehearses his story, someone comes up from behind and shoots him.

   Graziani and Jean-Lou, meanwhile, are still running down leads and find themselves with a problem: One passenger tells them there was a berth unoccupied; another passenger insists there was a man in it; and the woman who bought the ticket maintains she was there all night.

   Then we cut to another Berth and the woman who used it; what she was doing on the train, what she saw there, and a long bit about her background. She tells the Police everything she knows, and after they leave, someone comes up from behind and shoots her.

   And so it goes as we follow the investigating officers, then switch to another passenger… who also ends up dead. And then another. And then… well, you get the idea; someone is killing everyone who was on the train that night. But why? And how is the killer finding them?

   Then, as we’re running out of berths, the pattern breaks and we get the answer to the riddle of the not-empty bed. We also get a charming tale of young love and youthful idiocy, mixed with a tense cat-and-mouse between the police, the killer, and his last victim.

   Japrisot’s puzzle is a tricky one, and I applaud his craftsmanship, but I have to say things tend to drag a bit when he details the lives of his passenger/victims. It’s as if he’s more interested in the puzzle than the characters — and it shows.

   Costa-Gravas’s film suffers from something similar; things drag seriously when he gets into the minutia of the characters involved, but he manages to save the effort with some sly visual tricks and camerawork that manages to be stylish without showing off.

   Interestingly, he also chooses to reconstruct the story in linear fashion. We start with everyone getting on board before the murder, see them interact, understand the problem of the empty berth right from the start, and get involved with the young klutzes who end up being pursued by the killers.

   Yves Montand has the dog-weary look appropriate for a police detective, and Simone Signoret radiates her usual overstuffed star power, but the most interesting performances come from Catherine Allegret and Daniel Perrin as a pair of youngsters caught up in the machinations of Japrisot’s tricky plot. Together they convey the kind of emotional reality one finds in the best films of Francois Truffaut, and I found myself wanting to see more of their affairs and less of the murders, well-done though they are.

   And one other nod to cinematic convention: Where the book wraps up with off-page arrests, interviews and confessions, the movie ends with a car chase and shoot-out; well done, but I still wanted to see more of those crazy kids.

CHARLES ALVERSON – Not Sleeping, Just Dead. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, hardcover, 1977. Playboy Press, paperback, 1980.

   Joe Goodey is a private eye. Being a cynic comes with the job, but along with a sour view of the`world and a nasty way of saying his mind comes an unquenchable sense of justice that not even the soul-scouring impact of group therapy can touch.

   What he’s hired to do, and what he does, is to learn who caused the death of wealthy man’s granddaughter at a Big Sur drug rehabilitation commune. He also finds once again the success does not always bring satisfaction, much less gratitude.

   While there are some novelistic weaknesses in his approach, Goodey‘s last statement on the matter is an impassioned defense of the moral point of view that explains society’s continued need for incorruptible investigators who are unafraid of the truth and willing to point fingers of guilt where they should. It’s not been done better since the days of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and praise greater than that cannot be given.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 2, No. 2, March 1978 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 01-12-16.   I’ve not read either this, or Alverson’s Goodey’s Last Stand (1975), the first entry in an all-too-short two book PI series, in nearly 40 years. I liked both very much at the time, but I wonder how they would stand up today. I also have no idea why there were only the two books. Based on my opinion back then, there should have been more.


THOMAS PERRY – Sleeping Dogs. Butcher’s Boy #2. Random House, hardcover, May 1992. Ivy Books, paperback, April 1993.

   Any book about an amoral contract killer must inevitably (in my mind, anyway) evoke memories of and be compared to Westlake/Stark’s Parker. Yes, I know that Parker was a thief rather than a hit man, and that strictly speaking more appropriate comparisons would be Estleman’s Macklin and Collins’ Quarry. I remain unrepentant, however, particularly in the case of novels where the hit man is pitted against the (or a) mob, such as this one is. Stark’s Butcher’s Moon was the single best story of this type that I have read.

   Sleeping Dog is a sequel to Perry’s highly acclaimed The Butcher’s Boy of a decade ago, and takes place in approximately real time. The protagonist has left the United States and is living in England, hopefully safe from America’s organized crime,which he decimated and alienated in the first book. He is recognized quite by accident by a minor American crime figure while at the track in Brighton, and the mobster has the bad judgement to attempt to enhance his standing by counting coup. The results are predictable.

   Our hero (who use smany names in the book) quite naturally misapprehends the situation, and assumes organized intent rather than the serendipitous recognition which was actually the case. Though out of the game for a decade, his reactions have not changed in speed or nature: when attacked, remove the source. He immediately embarks for America to do just that.

   The whole book is a tragicomedy of errors, with the Butcher’s Boy, the mob, and various law-enforcement agencies assuming motivations and intentions on the parts of the other players that are completely erroneous, and result in much quite unnecessary mayhem.

   Perry is in my opinion an excellent writer. He paces his story well, the prose is crisp and unobtrusive, and the character of the kller is much more fully realized than is typical. Another character, Elizabeth Waring an agent of the Justice Department who had a leading role in the first book,is reprised and is also beautifully done.

   I am not sure that the ending of the book rang totally true; but then again, the character of an amoral killer is so alien to me that I won’t say it didn’t, either.

   I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven’t read The Butcher’s Boy, you should do so first If you like Perry’s style, try Metzger’s Dog also. I found his Big Fish of slightly lesser quality, and didn’t like Island.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #1, May 1992.

Bibliographic Note:  A third book in the series has appeared since Barry write this review: The Informant, 2011.

Editorial Comment:   My various tenures in DAPA-Em, where this review first appeared, overlapped Barry’s only slightly. Barry’s most recent review on this blog was of a Roger Zelazny fantasy hardcover, and at that point I had exhausted all of the reviews in the two mailings I had in hand.

   But not all is lost, however! Many thanks to Richard Moore, who has supplied me with photocopies of Barry’s first three contributions to the apa, and to Thom Walls, who has allowed me to borrow all of the remainder of the mailings Barry’s zines appeared in before his untimely death in 1996. We will not run out of Barry’s reviews any time soon.

by Mike Tooney

SLEEPING CAR TO TRIESTE. General Film Distributors, UK, 1948; Eagle-Lion Films, US, 1949. Jean Kent, Albert Lieven, Derrick De Marney, Paul Dupuis, Rona Anderson, David Tomlinson, Bonar Colleano, Finlay Currie, Grégoire Aslan, Alan Wheatley, Hugh Burden, David Hutcheson, Claude Larue, Zena Marshall, Leslie Weston, Eugene Deckers. Writers: Clifford Grey (story), William Douglas-Home (writer), Allan MacKinnon (writer). Director: John Paddy Carstairs.

   We watch as an important diary is abducted from a wall safe in a Paris embassy and one of the staff has the misfortune to witness the theft, with fatal results. The thief passes the book to an accomplice and then suavely rejoins the party in progress. As the plot unfurls we learn that this diary contains enough explosive information to ignite another war in Central Europe.

   What our murderous book taker doesn’t count on is being double-crossed by his accomplice, who intends to sell it to the highest bidder. What our double-crossing accomplice doesn’t count on is being closely pursued by the other guy aboard the Orient Express. He has already killed once for the diary, and as we’ll see he won’t hesitate to do it again.

   For a story of murder and political intrigue, this movie has a remarkably light tone. Much of the film is taken up with amusing character interaction — even the villain seems to have a human side. That, as much as the rest of the plot, makes Sleeping Car to Trieste highly watchable.

   Both IMDb and Wikipedia inform us that Sleeping Car is a remake of a 1932 British film called Rome Express (in which, incidentally, Finlay Currie appeared as another character), with a somewhat different plot line and writers.

   Take note of the steward who can’t keep his tunic buttoned, Eugene Deckers, a Belgian actor who appeared many times in many disguises on the 1954 Ronald Howard Sherlock Holmes series, most memorably as Harry Crocker, the disappearance expert.

   Viewers might remember David Tomlinson as the father in Disney’s Mary Poppins; in Sleeping Car he’s endowed with just one brain cell more than Bertie Wooster, his unwitting interference deflecting the story in unexpected directions.



SLEEP, MY LOVE. United Artists, 1948. Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings, Don Ameche, Rita Johnson, George Coulouris, Raymond Burr, Hazel Brooks. Director: Douglas Sirk.


   The disparity between actions and words in Caught (see my comments here ) was brought home even harder by the movie I saw right after it, Sleep, My Love, adapted from a novel by Leo Rosten, directed by Douglas Sirk, who helmed juicy films like Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows with a lurid sensitivity all his own.

    Sleep is basically Gaslight in modem dress: faithless-husband Don Ameche (quite nice in a rare bad-guy part) convinces naive-wife Claudette Colbert that she`s going loopy, with the help of a bogus shrink (George Coulouris, the nasty banker from Citizen Kane) so he can have her put away, grab her money, and marry lovely-but-cold Hazel Brooks (whose career apparently went nowhere after this promising start).

   Be that as it may, Don’s byzantine schemes … which are not exactly what they appear to be … get thwarted by healthy young Bob Cummings, one of the few leading men in Hollywood who could romance married women on the screen without losing audience sympathy.

   Okay, so Sleep, My Love goes through the whole Gaslight schtick, with Claudette hounded by nasty George Coulouris, then pampered with false sympathy by rotten Don Ameche, who gently prepares her for a nervous breakdown, while setting up his partner for a nifty double-cross.


   Director Sirk has some fun along the way, adding depth to the picture with carefully-observed scenes of a Chinese wedding, or an interview with a black housekeeper who is much sharper than we might expect. But the real impact of his direction comes with an ending that beautifully melds Style and Substance:

   Sirk has previously established that the Colbert-Ameche living room is curtained from the foyer by a frosted-glass sliding pocket-door. Toward the end, Don arranges to have his partner George waiting in the tiling room to hound Claudette some more. Or at least that`s what George thinks; (WARNING!!) actually Sneaky Ameche is handing his half-doped wife a gun and telling her that her persecutor is just beyond that door.


   Claudette almost shoots, but at the last minute awakens, whereupon her husband grabs the gun and shoots through the door himself, shattering the frosted glass to reveal Coulouris on the other side, who shoots back in revenge. (END OF WARNING.)

   Mere description doesn’t do justice to this scene, where, at the moment narratively when her husband breaks through his web of deception, he also visually breaks the barrier that hides his scheming partner: for once, we get a perfect visual correlative to what the story is telling us. And another reason why I go to the Movies.