Notes on “The Long Goodbye”

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


1. What a wonderful book. A sprawling mini-epic with L.A. as a Potemkin paradise that, like “The Big Sleep,” is confusing as hell. More than a few times I stopped short to say, “Wait, how are these people connected again?” There are three rich Valley couples, an elderly and shadowy rich patriarch, various mobsters, cops, quack doctors, district attorneys, and corrupt Mexican officials for Marlowe to navigate through. The novel has been accepted into the Canon — Joyce Carol Oates blurbs my edition and Michael Chabon is a major fan — and I wonder if the plot’s complexity (along with the style, of course) went a long way towards earning that acceptance.

2. All of the dangerous dames — Sylvia Lennox, Eileen Wade, and Linda Loring — are blondes. The book is one long treatise on the icy blonde. The quote below is from Farewell, My Lovely but it could’ve easily been said about Eileen Wade. Sir Barken quoted a key passage here.


3. I don’t know if the insight originated with him, but James Ellroy has said that, “Chandler wrote about the kind of man he wished he was, Hammett wrote about the kind of man he feared he might be.” Marlowe really is an idealized character. Everyone in the book is corrupt, lying, or hiding something except him. He’s the only one who pursues the truth. Even though the movie is a reinvention, it preserves this aspect of the character. Kael observes her review that Marlowe is “the only one who cares.”

4. This is one of the most alcohol-soaked novels I’ve read all year, and that includes the three Bukowski books I’ve gone through in the past couple of months. Gimlets, anyone?

5. My favorite character was a minor one, one of the cops named Ohls. He only shows up in three or four scenes but each time he comes on stage he gets a cynical, world-weary, paragraph-long rant in Chandlerspeak that always made me laugh out loud.


6. The book was published in 1953 and the movie was released in 1973. Only twenty years apart but they feel like completely different worlds.

7. The Coen Brothers sure have ripped this movie off a lot, haven’t they? (Hey, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best.) Sterling Hayden’s riff on Hemingway is like the antecedent to John Mahoney’s take on Faulkner in BARTON FINK. “A shaggy, pot-puffing version of Chandler” is the seed for THE BIG LEBOWSKI. They even reference the cat gag in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.

The Long Goodbye 1d

8. Elliott Gould is fantastic and, good Lord, did that guy have a run in the early 70s. In 1970, he’s on the cover of Time magazine. In the span of four years, from 1969 to 1973, he made ten movies including one with Mazursky, two classics with Altman, and Bergman’s first English-language film. Fuckin’ A!


9. What an astonishing talent Leigh Brackett was. Does she have a street named for her in Hollywood? She not only co-wrote THE BIG SLEEP with Faulkner (!), she was responsible for Hawks’ RIO BRAVO (a story he liked so much he filmed it three times), this movie, and, shortly before her death, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. A masterpiece in at least three different genres. Brackett’s adaptation preserves the core of Chandler’s novel — it follows the 380-page novel about as well as a 2-hour movie can — but she alters the ending substantially. Altman loved her ending so much he wanted it written into his contract that it could not be changed.

10. “Her I love. You I don’t even like.” Was that in the script or was it an Altman idea?

11. There are two gun battles in the novel, neither of which is that consequential to the plot. In the film a gun is fired once and it’s maybe the best part of Marlowe’s characterization, providing an ironic counterpoint to his mumbling mantra “It’s OK by me.”

12. L.A. in the early 70s was a pretty ugly place, but this is the third film I’ve seen this year — along with Jacques Demy’s MODEL SHOP (1969) and Jacques Deray’s THE OUTSIDE MAN (1972) — in which the movie is a valentine to the city.


13. There’s a scene where Gould gets pissed off at a cop and threatens to report him to then-governor Ronald Reagan. In the very next scene, Gould has a meeting with a mobster (played by Mark Rydell) and which actor plays one of the mobster’s silent goons? Future governator Ahnold. Truth is stranger than fiction, you guys. Altman noted that “Arnold never talks about this picture.”

14. Sax told me that when the movie played at his local arthouse, he saw it three times in one day. Goddamit, now I have to watch it four times on DVD so I can beat him.


About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
This entry was posted in Books Publishing and Writing, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Notes on “The Long Goodbye”

  1. peterike2 says:

    I can’t stand Elliot Gould’s dumb horse face, and I hate his voice too (not quite sure why). Everything he does annoys me to no end. He always comes across like an arrogant douchebag, the kind of guy you wanted to kill when you had to work for him because he was the boss’s son and he could get away with being an asshole, and he reveled in it.

    Anyway, I didn’t like that movie at all, and frankly Altman is way over-rated.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. plwinkler says:

    Raymond Chandler is the greatest 20th century American writer.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. lloydville says:

    Marlowe’s essential incorruptibility, in his own terms, his ability to keep caring about justice or to keep some idea of what justice might be, is what distinguishes him from a film noir protagonist, who tends to occupy a state of moral bewilderment. “The Long Goodbye” presents a very dark view of the world, but Marlowe remains a hero along more or less classic lines — pre-war lines.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The novel is full of post-war malaise. It’s as if most of the characters have given up on anything except their own comfort and wants. I recall Marlowe saying at one point that most people had decided the world was not worth saving, the implication being that he’s one of the few (the only?) standing against apathy.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lots of great moments along this line, like when he praises the inventor of neon “there’s a boy who made something out of nothing”. And the New York publisher’s remark “what are you burning tires out here, I thought you had a climate”. LA had certainly jumped that shark for him at that point.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Tanq 10 + Simply Limeade + ice = heaven

    Liked by 1 person

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