Carmen supposedly owes the money to an antique book-seller. Prior to visiting his bookshop, Marlowe swots up on rare books at the Hollywood Public Library, where he consults a copy of Famous First Editions (a book which doesn’t exist in the real world). Fedoras and trenchcoats were evidently not the library-goer’s usual attire in mid-forties Los Angeles. The bespectacled blonde to whom Marlowe returns the book accuses him of not looking like a bibliophile (a fellow Cambridge librarian once told me that my tie was unsuitable for a College library – unfortunately she looked nothing like Carole Douglas).
By referencing his atypical clothes, the librarian subtly undermines a set of prejudices audiences might have about Bogart’s character. Three years earlier he had played Sam Spade - a darker, colder, more obviously flawed private eye - in John Huston’s version of The Maltese Falcon. The brief library scene, while advancing the plot, also sets Marlowe apart from more traditional hard-men. It's difficult to imagine Spade in a library.
trailer featured Bogart asking a different librarian for help choosing his latest read. When he confesses to being a fan of the Maltese Falcon, she offers him a book that has “everything the Falcon has and more, Raymond Chandler’s latest bestseller [it wasn't], The Big Sleep.” Bogart starts reading the opening lines, the library fades, and corpses, gunshots, car chases, fistfights, and long, loving close-ups of Lauren Bacall fill the screen.
So, Bogart and Bacall sharing cigarettes and witty dialogue. A screenplay co-written by William Faulkner based on a Raymond Chandler novel. And Hollywood Public Library - what a job that would be! Easily the best film made of a Chandler book, with Bogart the definitive cinematic Marlowe.
Director: Howard Hawks
Written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
Cinematography: Sydney Hikcox
Editing: Christian Nyby
Cast includes Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone