Big Sleep. Though Howard Hawks and his scriptures muddled Raymond Chandler's impeccable crafted lines of action, this film is as much fun as anything Bogart starred in. He's a more glib and humorous hard-boiled dick than Chandler's Philip Marfowe, but the entire film is played for laughs--and played to the hilt by Lauren Bacall and Elisha Cook, among others.
Caesar and Cleopatra. Bernard Shaw's Caesar is a good-tempered genius. Its clear why he conquered the world; he was smarter than anyone else, and learned the art of civilization while he conquered. He attempts to teach it to the ardent young Cleopatra, who's not very interested in him otherwise. In so doing, he loses part of his army, but ultimately saves his neck. Gabriel Pascal produced and directed the film, which is photographed by four top British cameramen in florid Technicolor; Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains ham it up nicely as the title characters.
Pygmallon. The best filming of any Shaw play. Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard directed this beautifully acted version of Shaw's comedy of speech and manners. Leslie Howard is an elegant Henry Higgins--we are so tempered to think of Rex Harrison in the role that it is amazing how quickly Howard's image shuffles Harrison out of our heads. Wendy Hiller is a vital and beautiful Eliza Dolittle, and Wilfrid Lawson is joyously seedy as her father. Arthur Honegger composed the musical score, so even if you miss Lerner and Loew, there are compensations.
Sleuth. The most overrated film thus far this year. Joseph L. Manckiewicz directs with the tired hands of an old whore, and the screenplay itself is not really that clever-an indictment of upper-class gamesmanship which considers itself righteous by having hairdresser Michael Caine expose detective story writer Laurence Olivier as a fake Labored.