Detective Story

The Long Goodbye (1973)

Raymond Chandler’s sixth and last mystery featuring private eye Philip Marlowe, The Long Goodbye (published in 1953), was surprisingly not made into a film until Robert Altman’s treatment of it in 1973.  Altman places the story in contemporary Los Angeles, while keeping the lead character true to Chandler’s original.  During filming Altman and the crew referred to the lead character as “Rip Van Marlowe,” emphasizing the anachronism of this 1950s man living in 1970s Los Angeles. 


Photograph from the set of The Long Goodbye.

In this letter to Italian screenwriter and director Gian Luigi Rondi, Altman comments on Chandler’s writing and the “moral man” character represented by Marlowe.  “I wasn’t attracted by the story at all except that I wanted to make a movie the way Chandler made a detective novel.  The story is very complicated, but it’s really just a framework on which to suspend a hundred thumbnail sketches.”

“[In the 1950s] … he [Marlowe] helped us to delude ourselves into thinking that not only could good guys finish first, but that there were indeed moral men who were clearly definable from the bad guys.  In the 70s…he’s a man who cares, going up against the controlled tidiness and sheen of the surrounding chaos.  A moralist in an immoral world.”






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Robert Altman.  Typed letter to Gian Luigi Rondi, undated.

The Western