Elliott Gould gives one of his best performances (Esquire) as a quirky, mischievous PhilipMarlowe in Robert Altman's fascinating and original (Newsweek) send-up of Raymond Chandler's classic detective story. Co-starrin... more »g Nina Van Pallandt and Sterling Hayden and written by Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep) The Long Goodbye is a gloriously inspired tribute to Hollywood (The Hollywood Reporter) with an ending that's as controversial as it is provocative (Los Angeles Times)! Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe (Gould) faces the most bizarre case of his life, when a friend's apparent suicide turns into a double murder involving a sexy blonde, a disturbed gangster and a suitcase full of drug money. But as Marlowe stumbles toward the truth, hesoon finds himself lost in a maze of sex and deceitonly to discover that in L.A., if love is dangerous friendship is murder.« less
"There are so many good ideas and concepts at work in this film. Here are a few: 1: In the DVD Special Features, Director Robert Altman talks about his overall concept for this film. His problem was how does a filmaker take a character that is so much from a different era and place him in modern times? Altman came up with a conceptual framework: look at the film as though Philip Marlowe, Chandler's ace detective from the 1940's, has been sleeping for thirty years and wakes up in the 1970's. Altman called it his "Rip Van Marlowe" concept. He thought of the film this way because he wanted to place the classic 1940 Marlowe sense of integrity and ethical code in the free-wheeling Seventies. This idea is ingenious and fits Eliott Gould's hip but outsider acting style to a tee. 2: Altman keeps the camera moving at all times. The lens does not jerk around in a mise en scene way, but more with long, smooth tracking and pan shots. This gives the movie a great feeling of constant action and forward movement, even when folks are just talking. The camera movement is done in such a smooth way, it seems very natural - as if you, the viewer, were really watching the action and simply turning your head to follow the flow of life. 3: The movie theme song is beautiful and was written by Johnny Mercer. It has a classic feel, and it dominates the sound of the film. Altman has put this haunting melody everywhere; in the sound of a doorbell, in the tune played in a Mexican funeral, in songs that come over half-heard radios - everywhere. It is the song the small time lounge piano player is trying to learn in the background of one scene, and it is the song that you will find yourself humming once the film is over. All this is almost done on a subliminal level, and it is brilliant.4: The casting is tremendous and original. Elliott Guild is perfect as the man that seems out of place and almost lackadaisical on the surface, yet has a steel hard code of ethics that he lives by even - especially when - no one else does. Jim Bouton, the ex baseball star and writer of Foul Ball, is cast as Marlowe's friend, and he is a treat to watch - all smarmy smile and charm. Another Altman favorite, Henry Gibson of Laugh-In fame is around as the reptilian Dr. Verringer and Sterling Hayden booms through his tragic turn as the Hemingway-like writer Roger Wade. Everyone is very good. Watch for two cool cameos: David Carradine as a hip-talking anti-establishment inmate that Marlowe meets in a short stay in prison, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (that's right, governor Schwarzenneger) as a wordless muscle bound enforcer. I really love this movie. As a director, Robert Altman gives actors more room than any other director in film history. He lets them, as he says in the DVD special features, "do what they became actors to do: be creative." This has its pluses and minuses, but it could, in some films, really make magic. There is a "lifelike" quality to the best of Altman's work, which is to say some of the best moviemaking ever done. I am thinking about Nashville and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, both films that linger and gain power in memory. I will not give the end away, but it is worth waiting for and a real surprise. It is the moment in the film when the fairy-dust and dope smoke of the 70's is stripped away to reveal Gould/Marlowe's adamantine core; a center constructed around a very tight code of loyalty and integrity. Do yourself a favor and buy it."
A Great & Twisted Take On Marlowe
Kenneth M. Gelwasser | Hollywood, Fl USA | 09/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What director, Robert Altman did with "The Long Goodbye" is what he does best. He takes either a subject or genre and turns it inside out, until it becomes something completely different. He has done this to everything from the myths of the old West ("McCabe & Mrs. Miller") to most recently, the old standbye of the English drawing room murder("Gosford Park").In "The Long Goodbye" Altman works his movie magic on Raymond Chandler's private eye, Phillipe Marlowe.In this film Altman plops the iconic 40's & 50's detective (masterfully played by Elliot Gould) right into the middle of 1970s, Southern California.The plot is the usual labyrinth, that you would expect a Chandler character to be in. Marlowe's good friend, Terry Lennox mysteriously drops by and asks the detective for a ride to Mexico. Days later he winds up dead from an apparent suicide.Meanwhile, Marlowe is hired by the wife of an alcholic writer, in a missing persons case.Is there some how a connection between all these events?Along the way the movie viewer gets the fun of following Marlowe, as he meets tough guy cops, psychotic gangsters,a quack doctor, even a cult of naked yoga enthusiasts.Gould reinvents the character and plays him as a figure who is an anachronism, a man lost in time. He wanders the landscape in a haze, mumbling smart remarks and nonsequiturs.He is a man who is preplexed by the antics and lifestyles of the modern world.Everytime he is confronted by 1970s California weirdness, he responds with the mantra "its O.K. by me".Not only is his cheap suit and car decades old, but so are his values and that famous moral code that he lives by.But in the twisted surprise ending of the film, it is those values and moral codes that he sticks by.This is a really great film, that humourously turns the Marlowe legend upside down.Gould really shows us his acting chops and gives a great performance.He is backed up with a wonderful supporting cast(Henry Gibson, Nina Van Pallandt, Mark Rydell, Jim Bouton) that gives us some amazingly crazy characters.Especially good is veteren actor, Sterling Hayden as the drunken, Hemingway-like author. Hayden gives a very vigorous and moving portrayle of a man at the end of his emotional rope.Finally a mention should be made of the movie's theme song. The Mercer/Williams tune is played throughout the film in many weird and different ways, that are too many to list.Keep an ear out for them.This is a simply great movie that will fascinate and entertain.What would Humphery Bogart think, if he saw all of this? I think Bogie would have had a good laugh..."
Quirky, Atmospheric, Unique Altman Spin to Chandler!
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 04/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I admit, when I first viewed "The Long Goodbye", in 1973, I didn't like the film; the signature Altman touches (rambling storyline, cartoonish characters, dialog that fades in and out) seemed ill-suited to a hard-boiled detective movie, and Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe? No WAY! Bogie had been perfect, Dick Powell, nearly as good, but "M.A.S.H.'s" 'Trapper John'? Too ethnic, too 'hip', too 'Altman'!
Well, seeing it again, nearly 34 years later, I now realize I was totally wrong! The film is brilliant, a carefully-crafted color Noir, with Gould truly remarkable as a man of morals in a period (the 1970s) lacking morality. Perhaps it isn't Raymond Chandler, but I don't think he'd have minded Altman's 'spin', at all!
In the first sequence of the film, Marlowe's cat wakes him to be fed; out of cat food, the detective drives to an all-night grocery, only to discover the cat's favorite brand is out of stock, so he attempts to fool the cat, emptying another brand into an empty can of 'her' food. The cat isn't fooled by the deception, however, and runs away, for good...
A simple scene, one I thought was simply Altman quirkiness, in '73...but, in fact, it neatly foreshadows the major theme of the film: betrayal by a friend, and the price. As events unfold, Marlowe would uncover treachery, a multitude of lies, and self-serving, amoral characters attempting to 'fool' him...with his resolution decisive, abrupt, and totally unexpected!
The casting is first-rate. Elliott Gould, Altman's only choice as Marlowe, actually works extremely well, BECAUSE he is against 'type'. Mumbling, bemused, a cigarette eternally between his lips, he gives the detective a blue-collar integrity that plays beautifully off the snobbish Malibu 'suspects'. And what an array of characters they are! From a grandiosely 'over-the-top' alcoholic writer (Sterling Hayden, in a role intended for Dan Blocker, who passed away, before filming began), to his sophisticated, long-suffering wife (Nina Van Pallandt), to a thuggish Jewish gangster attempting to be genteel (Mark Rydell), to a smug health guru (Henry Gibson), to Marlowe's cocky childhood buddy (Jim Bouton)...everyone has an agenda, and the detective must plow through all the deception, to uncover the truth.
There are a couple of notable cameos; Arnold Schwarzenegger, in only his second film, displays his massive physique, as a silent, mustached henchman; and David Carradine plays a philosophical cellmate, after Marlowe 'cracks wise' to the cops.
The film was a failure when released; Altman blamed poor marketing, with the studio promoting it as a 'traditional' detective flick, and audiences (including me) expecting a Bogart-like Marlowe. Time has, however, allowed the movie to succeed on it's own merits, and it is, today, considered a classic.
So please give the film a second look...You may discover a new favorite, in an old film!
Altman genre revisonism at his most sublime
Matthew Brewer | rural hell hole | 11/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Long Goodbye is vintage Altman. It ranks not only as one of his best works, but one of the best films of the 1970s. Ignore the negative comments, this is supposed to be an updating of Chandlers character Philip Marlowe to a more contemporary setting which was the whole point and Altman does it very cleverly in the most unexpected ways. Elliot Gould truly shines in his interesting interpratation of Marlowe. Seemingly lacking the confidence and self assurance of Humphrey Bogart ( "It's Okay with Me"), Gould more than makes up by proving himself with his wit which remains firmly intact from how Chandler originally envisioned the character. It is truly a brilliant, understated performance and better than Altman and Gould's previous collaboration Mash. The film has many quirky touches from Altman with a terrific supporting cast of players including Sterling Hayden, Henry Gibson, Nina Van Pallandt, Jim Bouton and director Mark Rydell. The stunning photography by Vilmos Zsigmond once again gives yet another Altman film a unique aesthetic look. It is severly diminish when cropped up in pan & scan as other reviewers have mentioned. The film begs for a proper transfer to widescreen. Let's pray MGM/ UA comes to their senses and stop releasing James Bond box sets while these masterworks continue to be neglected."
A brilliant exercise in updating "noir"
Benjamin J Burgraff | 12/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Robert Altman decided to keep Raymond Chandler's milieu (Los Angeles) but update the era from the freighted 40s and 50s to the sleazy 70s, he added a lot more than color and unkempt hair. He rethought the whole myth of the hard-boiled private eye and handed it to Elliot Gould (who never did anything finer on film). Matching him is an oddball cast prominent among which are Sterling Hayden, Nina von Pallandt, Henry Gibson, and a very suspicious cat. Scene trumps stunning scene, leading to a twist undreamed of by Chandler that is triumphantly right. (Altman may have a hidden flair for thrillers; his Gingerbread Man also worked wonders with tired material.) This is one of the key films from a decade where movies were one of the few bright spots (and dazzlingly bright they were)."