“Originally I didn’t want to do it. I’ve enjoyed reading Chandler, though I never did finish ‘The Long Goodbye,’ and I liked those 1940s movies, but I just didn’t want to play around with them. I was sent the script by the producers and at first I said, ‘I don’t want to do Raymond Chandler.’ If you say ‘Philip Marlowe,’ people just think of Humphrey Bogart. Robert Mitchum was being proposed for it. But I just didn’t want to do another Philip Marlowe film and have it wrap up the same way all the other films did. I think it was David Picker, the production chief at United Artists, who suggested Elliott Gould for Marlowe — and then I was interested.
“She wrote that [The Big Sleep] like a man. She writes good.”
Howard Hawks, quoted in Hawks on Hawks
So I read Leigh Brackett's script — she wrote the script of ‘The Big Sleep’ for Hawks — and in her version, in the last scene, Marlowe pulled out his gun and killed his best friend, Terry Lennox. It was so out of character for Marlowe, I said, ‘I'll do the picture, but you cannot change that ending! It must be in the contract.’ They all agreed, which was very surprising. If she hadn't written that ending, I guarantee I wouldn't have done it. It said, ‘This is just a movie.’ After that, we had him do his funny little dance down the road and you hear ‘Hooray for Hollywood,’ and that's what it's really about — ‘Hooray for Hollywood.’ It even looked like a road made in a Hollywood studio. And with Eileen Wade driving past, it's like the final scene in ‘The Third Man’!
I decided that we were going to call him Rip Van Marlowe, as if he’d been asleep for twenty years, had woken up and was wandering through this landscape of the early 1970s, but trying to invoke the morals of a previous era. I put him in that dark suit, white shirt and tie, while everyone else was smelling incense and smoking pot and going topless; everything was health food and exercise and cool. So we just satirized that whole time. And that’s why that line of Elliott’s — ‘It’s OK with me’ — became his key line throughout the film.” —Robert Altman
Altman describes his particular way of shooting ‘The Long Goodbye’:
“I decided that the camera should never stop moving. It was arbitrary. We would just put the camera on a dolly and everything would move or pan, but it didn’t match the action; usually it was counter to it. It gave me that feeling that when the audience see the film, they’re kind of a voyeur. You’re looking at something you shouldn’t be looking at. Not that what you’re seeing is off limits; just that you’re not supposed to be there. You had to see over someone’s shoulder or peer round someone’s back. I just think that in so many films everything’s so beautiful, the lighting is gorgeous and with each shot everything is relit. My method also means you don’t have to light for close-ups; you only have to accommodate what may happen, so you just light the scene and it saves a lot of time. The rougher it looked, the better it served my purpose.
I was worried about the harsh light of southern California and I wanted to give the film the soft, pastel look you see on old postcards from the 1940s. So we post-flashed the film even further than we did on ‘McCabe & Mrs Miller,’ almost 100 percent.”
Leigh Brackett’s screenplay for ‘The Long Goodbye’ (NOTE: For educational purposes only). Thanks to bobdole1357 and the great folks at Write to Reel.
Film critic Tony Macklin visited Leigh Brackett “on a hot, humid, blazing July 1975 day” at her farmhouse in Kinsman, Ohio. “I vividly remember Leigh’s making us lemonade to help cool us — it was pure sugar.” See also: Leigh Brackett — Journeyman Plumber. As did some research for a post about ‘Rio Bravo,’ Daniel Martin Eckhart discovered more and more about what must have been a very special friendship between Brackett and Hawks.
For more film related items throughout the day, follow Cinephilia & Beyond on Twitter. Get Cinephilia & Beyond in your inbox by signing in. You can also follow our RSS feed. Please use our Google Custom Search for better results. If you enjoy Cinephilia & Beyond, please consider making a small donation to keep it going: