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The Big Sleep

Duration:
1 hour, 30 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 05 February 2011

In 1939 Raymond Chandler created a different kind of detective, the fast-talking, trouble seeking Californian private eye Philip Marlowe, for his great novel The Big Sleep. Marlowe's entanglement with the Sternwood family - respectable sister with gambling addiction, younger sister with drink/drug problem and an attendant cast of colourful underworld figures - is enshrined in the iconic film version with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Toby Stephens plays Philip Marlowe in a landmark series bringing all Chandler's ground breaking Philip Marlowe novels to Radio 4.

Dramatised by Robin Brooks
Directed by Claire Grove

This series brings all the Philip Marlowe novels to Radio 4's Saturday Play. The Big Sleep 1939, Farewell My Lovely 1940, The High Window 1942, The Lady in the Lake 1943, The Little Sister 1949 and The Long Goodbye 1953, and two lesser known novels, Playback 1958 and Poodle Springs, unfinished at the time of his death in 1959. The series will be aired in Spring and Autumn 2011.

Toby Stephens is best known for playing mega-villain Gustav Graves in the James Bond film Die Another Day (2002) and Edward Fairfax Rochester in the BBC television adaptation of Jane Eyre (2006). In autumn 2010 Toby starred as a detective in Vexed, a three-part comedic television series for BBC 2 and Toby made his debut at the National Theatre as George Danton in Danton's Death.

Kelly Burke makes her radio debut as cool, sophisticated Vivien Sternwood (the role which made Lauren Bacall famous).

Marlowe is a character the R4 audience think they know, but do they? He is a moral man in an amoral world. This is California in the '40's and 50's, as beautiful as a ripe fruit and rotten to the core, reflecting all the tarnished glitter of the American Dream. The police are corrupt. The businessmen are well-heeled racketeers with politicians in their pockets and their daughters have gone to the bad. It is the taxi-drivers, maids and bartenders who restore Marlowe's faith in human nature. They scratch out a living at the bottom of the pile and Marlowe is there with them, in his shabby office with its cracked sign and no air-con, waiting for the next client to walk through the door.

Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 23, 1888, but spent most of his boyhood and youth in England, where he attended Dulwich College. In 1919 he returned to the United States, settling in California, where he eventually became director of a number of independent oil companies. The Depression put an end to his business career, and in 1933, at the age of forty-five, he turned to writing, publishing his first stories in Black Mask. By the time he published his first novel, The Big Sleep (1939), featuring the iconic private eye Philip Marlowe, it was clear that he had not only mastered a genre but had set a standard to which others could only aspire. Chandler died in 1959.

Stephen Wyatt (dramatist) is a Sony Award Winning Playwright. Recent work for R4 includes dramatising three of the Complete Ripley series including The Talented Mr Ripley for Saturday Afternoon, The Yellow Plush Papers for 11.30am and Tom Jones for Classic Serial. His original play Memorials for the Missing won a Sony Award in 2008.

Robin Brooks (dramatist) has recently dramatised I Claudius in 5 episodes for BBC Radio 4. Other Classic Serials include: Boswell's Life of Johnson, My Cousin Rachel and The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West .

Credits

Philip Marlowe
Toby Stephens
Vivien Sternwood
Kelly Burke
Agnes Lozelle
Barbara Barnes
Mona Mars
Madeleine Potter
Carmen Sternwood
Leah Brotherhead
Joe Brody
Sam Dale
General Sternwood
Sean Baker
Lash Canino
Iain Batchelor
Eddie Mars
Henry Devas
Cronjager
Jude Akuwudike
Director
Claire Grove
Adaptor
Robin Brooks
Author
Raymond Chandler

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