“A study of a moral and decent man cast adrift in a selfish, self-obsessed society where lives can be thrown away without a backward glance … and any notions of friendship and loyalty are meaningless.” – O’Brien, Daniel. Robert Altman: Hollywood Survivor, B.T. Batsford, 1995
Robert Altman’s inspired take on the classic Raymond Chandler novel, what the director refers to as a satire in melancholy, deconstructs the private eye trope and transports the story from post-WWII to swinging self-obsessed 1970’s Hollywood, led with a crowning performance by Elliott Gould as Phillip Marlowe.
A voyeuristic, moving look into the life of a broken private eye who seems to have awoken from a bygone era with only his finicky cat in tow. Marlowe is drawn into a labyrinth of deception and double-crosses by friend Terry Lennox, played astutely by first time actor Jim Bouton (a former baseball player and author of BALL FOUR, the book that changed sports journalism forever), a beautiful wealthy woman (Nina Van Pallandt), and her husband played by Sterling Hayden in a tour de force portrayal of a brilliant but drunken author complete with a pull-no-punches performance from Mark Rydell as a raging sociopathic gangster and an appearance by the always charismatic but highly unnerving Henry Gibson (MAGNOLIA).
The script by legend Leigh Brackett is supercharged with Altman’s characteristic use of ad-libbing, most notably the drinking scene between Gould and Hayden and the film’s mantra “It’s okay with me.”
Listen for the nimble use of the John Williams and Johnny Mercer’s theme music, played again and again in numerous ways with various instruments to wondrous effect. And look out for an uncredited cameo appearance by a strapping young Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The underbelly of Hollywood has never been bared so eloquently, with its ugliness shot so beautifully by Vilmos Zsigmond (awarded the NATIONAL SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS’ prize for Best Cinematographer for this film).
THE LONG GOODBYE is a film that gets better with every viewing; see it again or for the first time, courtesy of Robert Altman’s personal 35mm print, generously provided by the UCLA FILM AND TELEVISION ARCHIVE.
Director: Robert Altman
Hulu Theatre @The Egyptian