Does it make a lot of sense? No. Is it entertaining? Yes. And that really is what’s important in the end, at least in this genre. Its not worried about trivial matters like story or plot, but more in the characters and the tone and mood of the piece. Bogart is phenomenal as Marlow, creating one of the definitive film noir anti-heroes.
Fascinating case of a film where the director´s golden touch enables one to overlook a major underlying flaw: a plot that´s confusing as fuck. This would have most certainly been a train wreck in the wrong hands, but Hawks manages to elegantly glue all the right pieces together.
I couldn't tell you what the hell's going on (from what I read, neither could some of the writers), but in a movie like this, it's more about the journey and the odd-ball characters you meet. There's some daring stuff for a '40's flick ... namely a not-too concealed hint at pornography. That Martha Vickers was quite the little thumb-sucker. Bogie is, of course, outstanding! Love those opening credits!!!
I guess it's important to at least try to follow what is going with this convoluted movie, but in the long run, you just have to have fun with it and enjoy the overall film noir world, Bogart, Bacall, and the seedy and the sexy femme fatales that you meet along the way.