The Long Goodbye (1973)

Marlowe: a man who treats his cat right.

Marlowe: a man who treats his cat right.

I’ve never read any Raymond Chandler, and I’ve only seen a handful of noir films, but I have seen The Big Lebowski, a film largely influenced by Chandler and noir in general, and Robert Altman’s film version of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye specifically.

At first, I thought The Long Goodbye was going to be a serious crime noir drama thing. I was only three-quarters correct. Yes, it’s a crime noir drama thing, but serious is not a word I’d use to describe it – in fact, it’s got a pretty damn fine sense of humor about itself.

Elliott Gould plays Philip Marlowe, an easy-going private detective with a cat, some topless neighbors, and a friend that appears to be in some serious trouble. His pal, Terry Lennox, just wants a ride to the Tijuana border. When Marlowe returns he finds himself sucked into an intricate plot involving murder, alcoholic writers, extramarital affairs, $350,000 worth of owed money and a supposed suicide.

Mr. Alcoholic Writer fancies himself a Hemingway...

Mr. Alcoholic Writer fancies himself a Hemingway…

The cops believe Terry Lennox murdered his wife and skipped town, only to commit suicide in Tijuana a few days later. Marlowe doesn’t believe his friend would’ve done such a thing, and so vows to solve the real mystery at hand, getting himself involved with some pretty screwed-up people in the process.

I did not think I’d like this movie as much as I did. The crime drama as a genre never really appeals to me all that much, but Elliott Gould is so flipping good in this movie, he makes the whole thing worthwhile! His Marlowe might be laid-back, but he doesn’t take any shit, and at the root is a truly decent guy who believes in doing what he feels is right. In the end, Marlowe is a guy with morals trying to get by in a very amoral place: Hollywood.


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