Dorothy Malone, 1924 (1925?)-2018

< -- EXCERPT: Among Malone’s first films at Warners was Howard Hawks’s classic film noir The Big Sleep (1946) in which, despite appearing in a single sequence lasting a little over three minutes, she made a huge impact.§ -->

Among Malone’s first films at Warners was Howard Hawks’s classic film noir The Big Sleep (1946) in which, despite appearing in a single sequence lasting a little over three minutes, she made a huge impact. The scene, which Hawks considered cutting because it was not indispensable to the complicated plot, was saved, according to the director, “just because the girl was so damn pretty”.

It involved the private eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart), on a case, popping into a bookshop run by Malone, to find out if she knows the suspicious owner of a rival bookshop across the road. She is bespectacled and wears her hair up — a Hollywood signifier of an intellectual — though she seems to be flirting with him. “You begin to interest me… vaguely,” she says. Marlowe starts to leave, but it is raining outside and when she says, “It’s coming down pretty hard out there,” something in her voice suggests she wants him to stay.

“You know, as it happens I have a bottle of pretty good rye in my pocket,” he says. “I’d a lot rather get wet in here.” She puts the closed sign on the door, lowers the shade, takes her glasses off and lets down her hair. “Looks like we’re closed for the rest of the afternoon,” she says. Audiences were left to make up their own minds about what happened next.

Dorothy Malone, left, with Humphrey Bogart, in the movie The Big Sleep (1946), photo Warner Brothers, Rex, Shutterstock.