Directed by Robert Altman (1973) Starring: Elliott Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson
Philip Marlowe (Gould) agrees to take his friend to Tijuana, but discovers that his friend’s wife was murdered. When his friend commits suicide, it seems like the case is closed, but Marlowe continues pondering it as he does a job for a novelist’s trophy wife.
My first thought: Altman sure loved his zooms back in the day. The Long Goodbye is composed of moving camera shots, always with a zoom combined with panning or dollying. It’s an interesting technique, to say the least, but I left Film Class blinking, imagining zooms wherever I looked. However, it does age the film, perhaps just as much as the leisure suits.
The plot was cool in a neo-noir kind of way, set in the Hollywood of the seventies in all its glory. It also relies on only two songs throughout the soundtrack: “Hooray for Hollywood” and different versions of “The Long Goodbye”, composed by John Williams and Johnnie Mercer.
I think our collective culture will always associate Chandler’s Marlowe with Humphrey Bogart, but Gould gives a great impression as the tough detective in The Long Goodbye. This is a Marlowe shaped by a different environment, who has a very particular cat, and a whole host of one-liners. He interacts so smoothly with everyone else in the movie that it seems like he knows he’s just a character within a larger plot. It’s impressive and makes for a very sympathetic main character.
Other characters are plays against type, such as the suspicious doctor, whose role in the plot is relatively small; the smart, almost femme fatale wife Eileen (van Pallandt), married to Roger Wade (Sterling). There’s Marty-the-Mobster (Rydell), who is equal parts dorky and horrifying.