The Big Sleep (1978)

Winner-Big-Sleep-posterMichael Winner, the pugnacious British filmmaker (and restaurant critic), died in January at age 77. He dabbled in almost every genre (Westerns, musicals, horror, costume melodrama, war movies etc.) though was most at home with ironic comedies during the 1960s and violent thrillers in the 70s. He made six movies with Charles Bronson, the best-known being Death Wish, the controversial adaptation of Brian Garfield’s novel that combined vigilante revenge fantasy with a hint of satire to enduring box-office and pop culture appeal. But what did Winner bring to his 1978 adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s first novel – and can it measure up to the enduring 1940s Bogart and Bacall classic made by Howard Hawks?

The following review is offered as part of the Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog and you should head over there to see the many other fascinating titles that have been selected. I also submit it for the 2013 Book to Movie Challenge at the Doing Dewey blog- for links to the other participants’ reviews, click here.

“I was neat, clean-shaven and sober. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on ten million pounds” – Opening voiceover by Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum)

Attentive readers will immediately recognise a subtle change in currency for this otherwise close reproduction of Chandler’s opening paragraph, one that is highly indicative of what is to follow. Robert Mitchum stars as Marlowe, a role he had already played a couple of years earlier in Farewell, My Lovely (1975), a romantic hommage to 40s Film Noir set in period and keeping fairly close to the original novel. As it was a modest commercial success for producers Jerry Bick and Elliot Kastner they engaged Winner to write and direct a kind of box office follow-up, though apart from the presence of the iconic actor the two don’t have much in common. For one thing the action is now set in the present day – and for another it has been relocated from Los Angeles to the UK, which is certainly the biggest initial hurdle to overcome for any fans of the book given how central the author’s topographical descriptions of California (which he fictionalised variously as ‘Bay City’, ‘Poodle Springs’, ‘Idle Valley’ etc) are to his work.


The first thing that has to be said, in fairness, is that once you get used to the transposition to the UK, Winner’s is otherwise a pretty faithful adaptation of Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe book, certainly much closer to the source than the much-loved if more loosely derived Bogart and Bacall version. And yet Winner’s approach in general, for all his literal reverence for Chandler, is probably emblematic of why he was liked by producers but often hated by critics, though he definitely gets top marks for effort. Winner in fact reinstated the first person narration which Howard Hawks dispensed with in the 40s iteration and in addition follows the plot very closely. Marlowe is hired by the ailing General Sternwood (James Stewart) to deal with a blackmail attempt relating to his younger daughter (Carmen in the novel, for some reason Camilla in the film, and played in an absurdly over-the-top manner by Candy Clark) by a gay pornographer named Geiger (John Justin, who played the prince in the Korda version of The Thief of Baghdad). Marlowe follows Geiger home and later that night discovers the man shot dead and Carmen at the scene of the crime clearly under the influence of narcotics. Winner in his movies at the time never shied away from sordid detail so he does make quite heave weather of all these elements with Clark found nude and stoned at the scene of the crime and Geiger’s nasty bullet hole in his forehead seen in unlovely close-up.


After Marlowe takes the girl home, the film makes a point of clearing up that well-known conundrum from the 40s version – who killed the Sternwood’s driver? Here we see him clearly commit suicide by driving the car into the river at top speed, leading to that most absurd but convenient of film and TV clichés – the cop telling the hero that a car/ and or body has been found and then arriving at the scene when it is in fact being pulled out of the drink – so how could they know what car it was if it hadn’t been pulled out yet? Marlowe discovers that local gangster Eddie Mars (a rather chubby-looking Oliver Reed) was involved with Geiger and that Agnes, the latter’s bookstore accomplice (played perfectly by Joan Collins just as her career, long in the doldrums, was about pick up again) is involved with small-time gambler Joe Brody (Edward Fox) who has some incriminating photos of Camilla. After a nicely staged catfight involving Marlowe and Agnes, Joe gets shot by Geiger’s boyfriend and all seems solved.

“So many guns lately, so few brains”

Only there is this residual mystery over the disappearance of both Eddie Mars’ wife Mona and Rusty Reagan, the husband of Sternwood’s older daughter (Vivian in the book but now Charlotte in the film). In the Hawks version the daughter is played by Lauren Bacall and the film’s plot was largely sacrificed to build up her part. Winner is much more faithful here but is hampered by a pretty poor performance from Sarah Miles as the daughter who in addition appears in a succession of utterly hideous outfits (the 70s really were a trashy decade for fashion) and fails at every turn in her attempts to be coquettish and seductive – instead she just comes across as plain weird, fickle and suffering from an unusually dry upper lip (lots of lip-smacking action). So where are Rusty and Mona Mars and why isn’t Eddie worried about her disappearance? And just who is Lash Canino?


This adaptation is a quite frustrating at times because while perfectly competent technically, the look of the film is very flat with little attempt at atmosphere other than a few scenes shot at night, which is typical of Winner’s preference for naturalistic location shooting over studio artifice. This helps differentiate it from the dreamy black and white of the 40s version without doubt but what this also means is that the style is of necessity more often somewhat dull and functional; more disappointing is the fact that it does often feel somewhat sluggish, with Mitchum rather less engaged here than in his previous outing, especially in the scenes with Sarah Miles who appears in a succession of see-through tops but is never very convincing as a sophisticated society temptress. It doesn’t help that the 25-year age disparity between the two is so obvious, but both just seem to be coasting here.  And this is a shame because they were excellent together a few years earlier in Ryan’s Daughter (which also featured an Oscar-winning performance from John Mills, who appears here as Marlowe’s police contact at Scotland Yard). Winner often got amazing casts in his film, working with the likes of Orson Welles, Faye Dunaway, Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Sophia Loren, James Coburn, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and many more but none of the films they made together are particularly memorable (his early comedies starring Oliver Reed are much more impressive) and sadly the same is true here.


There are some notable performances though, especially from Candy Clark (bonkers but certainly dynamic) and a very sexy Joan Collins while Richard Boone chews up the scenery to great effect as the wonderfully named gunman Lash Canino (just one of the best henchmen names in fiction). But Winner’s approach is often just too prosaic to give the film the poetry, drive and atmosphere it requires. To give Winner credit he makes much greater use of Chandler’s dialogue thanks Hawks and maintains his wonderful opening and closing speeches. These are heard as bookends for the film with symmetrical POV shots from Marlowe’s soft-top Mercedes as he arrives at the opening and then departs at the end from the Sternwood home, backed by a jazzy lament, one of the last scores by Jerry Fielding (his fifth collaboration with Winner). This kind of ambitious circular structure is not what many would associate with the usual ‘zoom and thump’ of  Winner’s thrillers and again shows that he was making an effort to to reach for something a bit more stylish. For all that though it’s the climactic gun battle with Canino, all shot at night, which really stands out for its proficient staging – this is also true of the director’s handling of the conclusion. Indeed it is really gratifying to see the finale use the novel’s ending, which had been completely excised by Hawks, and which does in fact work very well indeed – the last 20 minutes of the movie are probably what is most memorable, with a strong final scene between Mitchum and Stewart too, much better than their rather torpid initial meeting in the orchid house.


But whereas the 40s version worked as a kind of screwball Noir thanks to the chiaroscuro look and the charismatic banter between Bogart and Bacall, there is very little atmosphere and momentum to the remake, which quickly gets bogged down in a sea of flashbacks. It is also a mistake to show Rusty Reagan in the flashbacks – a wonderful, teasing phantomatic presence in Chandler’s original novel, when we see him he inevitably fails to live up to General Sternwood’s reverential reverie of the man. This tends to point to another weakness in the movie as the narrative does feel a bit choppy (this is partly Chandler’s fault as he based it on several short stories that he ‘cannibalised to use his own terms) and Winner’s often leaden staging tends to emphasise this, making it feel that the movie is constantly stopping and starting again – in particular Winner seems to have given no thought to how to make transitions between scenes so that few rarely flow from one to the next. Thus, with a bumpy plotline and so little apparent connection between the events and characters, it is hard to get involved or care about the outcome. We await then for a truly faithful and effective cinematic adaptation of Chandler’s debut novel, though the BBC has made a couple fo excellent versions for radio starring Ed Bishop in the 70s and Toby Stephens a couple of years ago (I profiled the series here) – but then the intimacy of radio will always find it easier to match a novel narrated in the first person.

DVD Availability: Easily available internationally on DVD, the best edition by far is the 2007 Region 2 release by ITV Studios. It offers the film in a terrific widescreen anamorphic encoding and includes a number of extras, such as a look at the London locations used, an overview of Chandler’s importance by Maxim Jakubowski at his late lamented Charing Cross Road bookshop Murder One (they now operate online at, and a typically brash and unapologetic audio commentary by Winner, which is often extremely rude and frequently as funny. He also provides an on-screen interview and a brief two-minute intro to the minute – not a great movie perhaps, but an excellent DVD.

The Big Sleep (1978)
Director: Michael Winner
Producer: Jerry Bick, Elliot Kastner, Michael Winner
Screenplay: Michael Winner (from Raymond Chandler’s novel)
Cinematography: Robert Paynter
Art Direction: Harry Pottle
Music: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Joan Collins, Richard Boone, Oliver Reed, Sarah Miles, James Stewart, Candy Clark, Edward Fox, John Mills, Diana Quick, Richard Todd, James Donald, John Justin, Don Henderson, Colin Blakeley, Harry Andrews

***** (2 fedora tips out of 5)

This entry was posted in 2013 Book to Movie Challenge, Film Noir, London, Noir on Tuesday, Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, Raymond Chandler, Scene of the crime, Tuesday's Overlooked Film. Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to The Big Sleep (1978)

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Fine look at this Sergio. Not exactly the classic I’m sure producers hoped it to be (or even imitate with its noted original).

    • Thanmks for that – I think they were mainly hoping for some box office filthy lucre, but there wasn’t much of that either. It has its moments and I enjoyed watching it again, but …

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Sergio – I have to admit to being a bit of a purist about filmed versions of stories. Sometimes placing a film in the modern day or in a different place can work but for me, not often. So although I admit immediately that that’s just my prejudice rather than a commentary on the film itself, it did put me off. I’m not the expert you are on cinematography so I’ll defer to you on that aspect of the film; to me it didn’t have the richness that it could have. I must confess, not one of my favourites.

    • Thanks Margot – I know what you mean because in the end it boils down to a hope that the filmmakers want to honour the original work and make a good film too. But Hitchcock was fampus for completely changing the books he adapted and most fo the time did a fantastic job (on the other hand, his version of Psycho is incredibly faithful to the Robert Bloch novel). Slavish fidelity can be a total bore on the other hand and in many ways this is a case in point – I don’t have too much trouble divorcing myself from the original source when watching an adaptation though a film like LA Confidential is a good example where I was really sorry that they changed the Ellroy book as much as they did and didn’t like their ending at all – and yet, on its own terms, apart from the ending, I still think it’s a terrific movie! Contradictory of me, I know …

  3. TracyK says:

    I am going to confess that I did not even know this version existed. (My husband did, of course.) I enjoyed your post even though I have not seen it… and probably don’t need to.

    I cannot believe that Candy Clark who was in American Graffiti (which we recently re-watched) was also in this… but not surprised that she gave a good performance.

    • I like Candy Clark but she does give a fairly nutty performance (of a fairly nutty character) – I’m not suprised you’ve not come across this one but for obvious reasons it is fairly well known in the UK (though that doesn’t mean it gets a lot of respect) – it’s worth a look, the Bogart and Bacall movie is more fun, the radio adaptations are much more successful and the original novel remains best of all. I think that about sums it up!!

  4. Thanks for the warning, Sergio. May he rest in peace, but “Directed by Michael Winner” was always a sign to avoid a film for me, and you’ve done nothing to change my mind.

    • Hiya Steve, well, I can’t really disagree when it comes to the mystery genre – certainly his version of Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death starring Peter Ustinov and Lauren Bcall is nothing to write home about! On the other hand, his 60s comedies starring Oliver Reed like The System (available on a very good DVD by the way), The Jokers and I’ll Never Forget What’sisname are terrific films, really funny with a strong satirical edge – and The Games, about marathon runners, is also really underrrated too. He also did a nice hommage to 1930s gangster films, The Stone Killer, one of his early Charles Bronson movies that is also worth finding.

  5. Colin says:

    That’s spot on Sergio. You’ve highlighted just about all the elements that are good and bad about the movie.

    Firstly, let me say that the change of location, while not the best idea, doesn’t bother me all that much. Hawks made plenty of changes with his version so I can live with Winner’s update and move to the UK. I also think his direction isn’t awful, at least not as awful as it seems fashionable to say. However, it is very ordinary, and does nothing to enliven an extremely complicated story.

    My biggest problem, as you’ve alluded to here, would be some of the performances. Mitchum was coasting in this movie, but the real issue for me was Sarah Miles – it’s a rotten performance all the way, stinks the place out in fact, and suffers badly in comparison to Bacall’s work.

    Conversely, some of the best stuff in the film is the work done by the minor characters – Richard Boone and Joan Collins are excellent, and draw attention to some of the weaknesses elsewhere.

    • Cheers Colin, much aprpeciated. Collins and Boone are only in a handful of scenes of course but really are very good, but yes, Miles is not only miscast but also just plain poor in the film – granted, there is virtually no relationshipt o be had in terms of the script but playing that up a bit would have been the first order of business one would have thought. I like Winner’s films from the 60s and one is aware here that he is trying to shoot with plenty of angles to provide some visual variety – on the other hand his preference for low angles and wide lenses is an approach that we tend to associate with often cheap and undistinguished cinema because it flattens the image and literally and figuratively robs it of texture and depth. One suspects that Winner knew enough about cinema to be aware of these shortcomings but lacked the temperament and patience to do anything to remedy the situation. Someone like Richard Fleischer might have got a bit more from his actors though clearly had less chutzpah than Winner – trouble is, it compares so badly with the many great private eye movies of the 70s such as The Long Goodbye, Hickey & Boggs, Chinatown, Night Moves (review coming shortly to this parish) etc.

      • Colin says:

        Again, I agree. The film is problematic as much for its failure to stand alongside the other great crime movies of the period as anything else. Comparing it to Hawks’ original is perhaps a little unfair, but it also sits uncomfortably with its “prequel” Farewell, My Lovely.

        • The UK in the 70s was a pretty wretched time for many people with an incredibly bleak outlook and one does have to factor that in I suppose – certainly the melancholy of Winner’s 60s comedies quickly turned to sour cynicism and it’s easy to see how that fitted the tenor of the times, whereas the Dick richards film looks backwards with fond nostalgia. Having said that, I hope sometime that Farewell My Lovely will get as good a release on DVD as The Big Sleep as it is clearly very deserving (the music score by David Shire is alone worth the price of admission) – I used to own it on Super 8 as a kid and it looked great even in that format!

    • le0pard13 says:

      Oh, yes, for the support work done in this film, Colin. Tell me, have you ever seen a bad Richard Boone performance? I have not ever experienced that disappointment. Boone was always solid in whatever film (or TV show) I ever saw him in.

  6. Patti Abbott says:

    I had forgotten Candy Clark was in this. Good grief. That didn’t help things much.

  7. Remaking a classic movie is always a dicey business. Clearly, this version of THE BIG SLEEP didn’t come close to the original. I’m curious about the upcoming remake of THE GREAT GATSBY starring Leonardo DiCapro.

    • The initial trailer for Gatsby that I saw, before the release date got pushed back, looked pretty good to me in terms of capturing the gaudy life style – and the casting is pretty impressive so i am really looking forward to it, the one major reservation being I haven;t liked any of Luhrmann’s films from the last decade or so …

  8. Ben Solomon says:

    Remakes and adaptations. Always tricky stuff. In this case, the locale and Marlowe’s age are big-time changes. So I have to wonder, if you’re going to change it so much, why make it?

    • It would be nice to think that filmmakers were so bowled over by the original book that they decided they just had to engage with it artistically … but then, there’s all that cash to be had too … I take a broad view on the subject – some of my favourite movies are remakes and many are better than the originals Bogart’s version of (The Maltese Falcon, and the Clooney remake of Ocean’s Eleven being two obvious examples).

  9. John says:

    This is one of those movies where I think a lot of people said “Why?” when it first came out. I think I might have seen it on TV long ago, but Charlotte Rampling in Farewell, My Lovely sticks in my mind more permanently than Candy Clark (much as I enjoy her as an actress) in this one.

    In memory of Winner I recently re-watched The Sentinel and got to see it in all its uncensored glory. Wow. Pretty darn wretched and excessive in its lurid and grotesque moments. That scene with Beverly D’Angelo I’m sure is one she could erase from her cinema resume. So thoroughly tasteless but I couldn’t stop laughing. At least in The Big Sleep Winner had talented actors who did well in their roles. When he has borderline talent as in the case of most of the cast of The Sentinel the viewer suffers. I don’t think he knew how to direct actors at all. I kept wondering why Deborah Raffin wasn’t paying the lead role instead of the bland Cristina Raines.

    • Thanks John. I have only vague memories of seeing The Sentinel but have a friend who is going to lend me her copy so I can have all those long-suppressed memories come crashing back! I think the team on the Farewell, My Lovely remake, from director Dick Richards, DP John Alonzo, composer David Shire, screenwriter Davis Zelag Goodman, PD Dean Tavoularis as well as Rampling and Mitchum and the terrific supporting cast (Harry Dean Stanton, John Ireland, Sylvia Miles, pulp legend Jim Thompson and hey, even Sylvester Stallone) were all making the same movie, crafting a really glowing valentine to the 40s detective movie – whereas, as you say, on the remake of The Big Sleep it seemed mostly about cashing the pay cheque, though I think Winner was genuinely trying to do some good work and I think his affection for Chandler does come through.

  10. Yvette says:

    Richard Boone always delivered. I’m thinking of HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL and how much I loved that show….sigh!

    There’s something about Robert Mitchum – perhaps it’s the cragginess, but after a certain age he should have stopped making movies in color. Though I suppose by then, ALL movies were in color and there wasn’t much he could do about it.

    I haven’t seen this film (no surprise there since we seem to have very different tastes in films, Sergio) but as usual, I enjoyed reading your post and making believe I did see it. 🙂

    John Justin was such a beautiful actor though I never saw him in anything else besides THIEF OF BAGHDAD and I always wondered why. One would think he would have become a big star. Love that movie. Especially Conrad Veidt as the evil vizier.

    At any rate, just wanted to say you’ve done another great job and almost make me want to see this movie….Almost. 🙂

    • Thanks Yvette – I don’t think our tates are so dissimilar though! And if you haven;t seen the Mitchum version fo Farewell, My Lovely opposite Charlotte Rampling then you’ve got a real treat in store. Justin’s career was interrupted by the war and after that seems to have been primarily a stage actor though he made lots of occasional appearances over the years. Do you know, I’ve never seen an episode of Have Gun, Will Travel? I’ll have to get some DVDs.

  11. Sergio, I enjoyed reading your critical analysis of THE BIG SLEEP and though I haven’t seen this version or the Bogart-Bacall version, I could visualise the scenes as I read through your review. I wonder, though, if this film came at the fag-end of Mitchum’s and Stewart’s respective careers. I don’t know if I’d like this film, seeing as I am not familiar with Michael Winner the director but very much so with his DEATH WISH series, bit of a paradox there. Your mention of westerns by Winner got me interested in his portfolio and a pleasant surprise awaited me with the notable Burt Lancaster-Robert Ryan starrer LAWMAN that I remembered watching not long ago. Of course, at the time I didn’t know Winner had directed it.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Prashant – Winner’s films of the 70s are very much of their time: cool and efficient at their best but sometimes callous and overly sour at their worst. The Mechanic, with Charles Bronson (recently remade with Jason Statham) and the spy movie Scorpio (again with Burt Lancaster) are good examples of his enjoyably cynical thrillers of the 70s in which usually most of the characters get bumpred off in the end (see the attached video to give you an idea). Winner rarely made films about heroes and reflects the generally downbeat tone of the era – this is why I prefer his 60s comedies.

  12. Jeff Flugel says:

    Excellent summation of an unloved version of Chandler’s famous novel, Sergio! Your post jibes with my memory of the film as rather tired and misjudged, although you highlight more good points about it than I recall. I don’t think the switch of setting does the film any favors either. It’s a pity but I agree that Mitchum seems dull and uninspired here, compared to the much better FAREWELL MY LOVELY. I do remember liking the plot’s fidelity to Chandler’s original ending, as you mention. I don’t have a lot of favorites among Michael Winner’s filmography, but do enjoy both of his tough westerns, LAWMAN and CHATO’S LAND, and also like THE MECHANIC. He was a proficient director in his own way but seems destined to be remembered more for his recent ubiquitous presence on British reality TV programs.


    • Thanks very much Jeff – I think we’re pretty much in agreement here! I did enjoy re-watching this and looking at the book, which was a fabulous debut and remains pretty fresh – it’s easy to see why people get excited and want to adapt it, but I suspect it’s one of those books that, if you start pulling things out or adding, it starts to crack very quickly!

  13. Ben Solomon says:

    At the risk of being late to the races, you’ve got me spinning on all things Chandler and adaptations and, of course, the cinema! So I just wanted to mention one of my favorite flicks that also happens to fit in rather nicely, here: Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye.”

    • Thanks Ben, that is a fantastic movie and of course one that takes some pretty serious liberties with the original novel – but makes it work for its own purposes, just as the Hawks version of The Big Sleep does. On the DVD Altman makes some fascinating comments about collaborating with Leigh Bracket on Long Goodbye (she worked with Hawks on Sleep of course) and then says something really odd – that sadly she never got to see the completed film as she dies – thing is, the movie came out in 1973 and she died in 1979 while working on Empire Strikes Back – can’t believe they didn’t edit that bit out of the documentary!

  14. Ben Solomon says:

    Grateful for that Brackett insight–I don’t have the DVD. If I understand it right, Sterling Hayden replaced the late Dan Blocker. I just adore Hayden’s performance in this film. Hayden and Gould–what an effecting pair!

  15. Rod Croft says:

    I am a great admirer of Bob Mitchum’s talent and, even when he is accused of “phoning in” his performance, it is my opinion that his work is better than many of his contemporaries. While it is generally agreed that Winner’s ” Farewell, My Lovely” is a better film than his later effort, I still find much to enjoy in “The Long Sleep” and am prepared to overlook many of its problems just to see Bob Mitchum, and a frail James Stewart together, and strongly supported by so many distinguished actors. Fielding’s “jazzy lament” is particularly effective and most enjoyable.

    • Thanks Rod – I love Mitchum’s work (I could feature him here every week and nbever grow tired of him) and he probbly never gave a truly bad performance but he is much more ‘present’ shall we say in Farewell, My Lovely (which incidentally was directed by Dick Richards and not Winner) than he is in The Big Sleep (I think Newsweek at the time called the movie ‘The Bog Snooze’ and there are moments where they have a valid point probably). Stewart was apparently recovering from an illness at the time which explains was seems genuine frailty beyond what was required for the role – he was in fact only 69 when he made the film and lived on for another twenty years. Review of Mitchum’s superior Farewell, My Lovely coming to this blog very shortly!

  16. Rod Croft says:

    Looking forward to your review of “Farewell My Lovely”. Looks like I will have to ban the grandkids and “Peppa Pig” from my study when writing comments….or perhaps I am just too easily distracted.

  17. I was 15 when Winner’s BIG SLEEP came out. I went to see it with my Dad, who had introduced me to the Hawks original, which helped make Bogart and Chandler two of my favorites to this day. I’m pretty sure we had caught FAREWELL, MY LOVELY on TV, which made us all the more baffled as to why they so radically changed the setting of Mitchum’s follow-up as Marlowe. Of course, now I know that Mitchum and Chandler were about the only personnel those two films had in common. Having seen this a few times in the interim, and many other Winner films as well, I must say that DEATH WISH is about the only one I really look back on with much fondness, and that his greater fidelity to Chandler did not offset all the other ways in which his version pales beside the original. As others have pointed out, fidelity is no guarantee of quality, and vice-versa.

    I have always loathed Sarah Miles and Richard Boone, both of whom I may have seen for the first time in this film, which probably didn’t help. The only episode of HAVE GUN–WILL TRAVEL I have seen all the way through was the one I had to watch to research my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN. Funny that you mentioned WINTER KILLS, which I, too, recently revisited. That film, and the stories behind it, would make a marvelous post. But neither the cast (e.g., Mitchum, Stewart, Reed) nor crew members (e.g., Jerry Fielding, whose score for THE WILD BUNCH I adore) whom I like better could save this one for me. Most ironic of all, Elliott (note correct spelling) Kastner produced many films I love, including my all-time favorite, WHERE EAGLES DARE.

    • Meant to add, as a further tangent, that David Shire’s main-title theme for FAREWELL, MY LOVELY is absolutely wonderful, and along with his outstanding score for THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (another all-time favorite film of mine) ranks at the top of his filmography in my opinion.

    • Thanks very much Matthew – I do think Winner early comedies from the 60s do actually stand up pretty well but no question, this film for its slender virtues is not that great. I like Boone a lot more than you do though and I really think Miles has been much better in other films, including the too little appreciated role in The Servant.

      • I know I’m in the minority on Boone, but something about him has consistently rubbed me the wrong way over the years. In fairness, however, I still need to see THE SERVANT and Winner’s early comedies, and to revisit the two Shire scores you mentioned. THE CONVERSATION, in particular, I have been trying for ages to share with my daughter, which is why I have held off on watching it again, but since she graduated and moved out, my opportunities to do so have been few and far between. Ah, the down side of the empty nest…

        • Yeah, but on the plus side now that she’s going to be a movie star you can chalk a screening of The Conversation off to research on your tax return! The Servant is a weird psychodrama but brilliantly done and not just a two-hander for Bogarde and Fox either.

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  20. C. Miles says:

    Ironically, Bob Mitchum and James Stewart died on either the same day or a day apart in July of 1997 – I remember, because when I moved to the U.K. from N.Y. on July 5th of that year (my birthday), the front page headlines of the N.Y.Daily News had Mitchum’s picture on it. I brought it on the airplane with me and intended to keep it as a memory of the actor but somehow it was left on the plane after the 8 hour flight… By the way, though I always liked Stewart, I felt that Mitchum’s death (and the commemorations of his death) were somewhat overshadowed by the death of James Stewart. C.M.

    • I had managed to forget that Chris, thanks – I think it was barely a day apart Mitchum (1 July, Stewart the next day). There are of course so many examples of that happening – Orson Welles and You Brynner (10 October 1985), Federico Fellini and River Phoenix (31 October 1991) and more recently Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall. Stewart had been a lot less active recently whereas Mitchum worked right up to the end, so I suppose that may have had something to do with it too.

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