Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Long Goodbye

What About it?

The Long Goodbye is a Philip Marlowe story, different from any other. Rather than continue in the mold set up by older works such as "The Big Sleep," "The Maltese Falcon," and "Farewell, My Lovely" Altman chose to use the established character, Philip Marlowe in another way altogether.  Elliot Gould is about as far removed as it gets from Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum. Rather than tough and stoic, his Marlowe typically comes across more as out of step and isolated. He's a 40's character living in the 70's, as was alluded to by Robert Altman's description of the film as "Rip Van Marlowe." This is a character that may as well have slept through 30 years. Like other Marlowe movies this was adapted from a Raymond Chandler novel. Altman had Leigh Brackett,one of the screenwriter's for "The Big Sleep"  adapt it to screenplay, which shows in the smart writing and dialogue, but certainly liberties were taken, and Altman used Marlowe to serve his own vision.

Rather than exist in a dark office, with his name etched on the door this Marlowe is based out of his shabby apartment where he lives with his cat. He also lives directly across from a group of attractive exhibitionist women, yet he never seems tempted to be more than neighborly with them. In an exchange with a store employee, Marlowe observes, "I've got a cat, he's got a girl." Marlowe typically conducts himself as a gentleman. His 40's values at work, the main one being his great loyalty. When his friend Terry shows up with scratches on his face, wanting to get to Mexico right away, Marlowe doesn't give him a hard time, just gives him a ride. When questioned mercilessly by the cops and held for three days, Marlowe doesn't give up anything but smart assed answers. THis fact is so notable that it makes the news. Marlowe is not entirely clueless, he knows the rumors about his friend, but they go way back nd he trusts their friendship, mainly because of his own understanding of what friendship means.

This Marlowe has the sharp tongue that Marlowe always has although it sometimes plays differently. Gould's Marlowe as often as not, mutters wisecracks to himself, more than to his audience. As a 40's man in the 70's he's used to keeping himself entertained. THis Marlowe gets pushed around endlessly and endures it. He doesn't seem much good in a fistfight or quick to pull his gun. He compensates for his severe alienation by keeping to himself, and not trying to understand too much what isn't on the same wavelength as he is. His catchphrase here, "That's OK with me." shows us a man walking through a strange world almost totally detached from it, as if he knows he's from another time and is trying not to be bothered by it. He tells Harry. a goon tailing him, who asks about the girls next door "It's yoga, I don't know what yoga is, but it's yoga." Trends are outside his realm of interest.  Marlowe is the only person smoking cigarettes in the film, which is all the more notable in that he smokes them constantly. He insists on wearing his suit al the time, even refusing to take off his tie to drink with Roger Wade and giving Harry the goon tips on straightening his tie. To Marlowe, even "first rate hoods" should look a certain way which is now largely a thing of the past.

It would be easy to dismiss this Marlowe as bumbling and inept, due to the awkwardness always present around him, but this isn't really the case. He shows many times that he is very competent and for the most part unflappable. He just doesn't fit. He endures the police interrogation without a problem not being cowed by the cops whatsoever. When Marty Augustine insists on making violent spectacles, Marlowe doesn't panic, even facing the prospect of having his penis cut off. The only time he really loses his cool is just after Roger Wade's suicide, when a bit drunk, he gets new information from Sylvia that the cops have no use for. For Marlowe, there's a code, black and white, right and wrong. There is some grey area there, like overlooking the character defects of a shady friend, but to Marlowe, if Terry didn't kill his wife, the guy who did must be found. The disinterest on the cops behalf really bothers him. Sadly Marlowe is working from bad information which is built up by his own values, his loyalty to a friend clouding his deductions. He's also clearly bothered witnessing Dr, Veringer coercing Roger Wade to sign papers while not in possession of his faculties. He can't sit back and watch, waiting for Veringer to leave, he must speak up immediately.
 Gould handles the difficult role perfectly, not relying on the roles of Bogart and Mitchum at all to inform his character, instead rebuilding Marlowe from the ground up, as if he existed today. This Marlowe has no understanding with the cops, can't carry a gun around, or start fights at will. These things are not tolerated from a 70's PI. This Marlowe is a citizen like anyone else, at the mercy of the system as much as anyone. A P.I. is no longer a glamorous occupation, as Roger Wade points out when he says "I don't know, Marlboro. If I was your age, I think I'd bust my ass to get into something a little more dignified form of endeavor." This Marlowe gets no respect from anyone.

Gould gives us a distinct character that doesn't quite fit in any mold. His mannerisms, his muttering, and his delivery during confrontations give us a Marlowe that is clearly limited, but much more than he appears. Although Altman encourages our perception of his cluelessness, we are given a hint of that depth in the end. During his last talk with Terry, Terry says "I guess if anybody was gonna track me down it would be you." Terry of course doesn't understand what he's really done, which is betraying the code Marlowe lives by, You don't kill your wife. You don't use your friends. Not in the world according to Marlowe. Terry echoes the shallow ties of the times when he says "That's what friends are for." calling Marlowe a loser for adhering to his outdated sense of loyalty and morals.  "Nobody cares." Terry tells him. The cops have closed the case, Augustine has his money, and Eileen is free to be with him. He presents it as a victimless crime, except Marlowe knows that Sylvia is still dead, and their friendship was used like a toy. Marlowe's answer, "Yeah, nobody cares but me." tells us what we need to know, that Marlowe is not stupid or helpless, simply uncompromising in his code, although the world around him isn't. He shoots Terry dead because he's the only one that would, and it had to be done.

Altman gives Marlowe an interesting world, bright but dull, only sharpening up when danger arises, particularly the presence of Marty Augustine, a hood a it removed from the 40's mold, but sharing more with Marlowe than anyone else.  In a way, Augustine makes sense to Marlowe more than anyone else. His motivations are simple, if not shared, and what's a private eye without shady hoods around? The colors and the world around Marlowe get sharper, the closer he gets to the truth, the ending is crisp and clear and beautifully lit as if his vision has finally arrived. Marlowe mutters to himself against a world of busty background noise, but he can get involved if he must. The music in the movie is another interesting facet, being the same song, John William's and Johnny Mercer's theme "The Long Goodbye" over and over in different versions, yet never noticed by the characters (except for Hurray for Hollywood" at the end.) The acting in the film is all top notch. The writing is sharp and the dialogue is clever. As with many Chandler based stories, you could find many plot holes if you desired, but the plot isn't really the point.

Sterling Hayden's Roger Wade is fantastic to watch, also feeling like a relic from another time, a Hemingwayesque figure who easily towers over everyone around him. The larger than life presence of the man, however exists alongside a great fragility, perhaps enhanced by his severe drinking problem and his betrayal by his wife, which he can't divulge to anyone without damaging his ego beyond repair. When talking with Sylvia, he reminds her of the glories of the past, showing another connection to Marlowe. His journey between highs and lows is compelling and tragic. Nina Van Pallandt is also terrific as Eileen Wade, a character who seems simple but has complex plans and motivations. Handling Marlowe, Roger and Terry all at the same time she gives nothing away, even using her shock at Roger's suicide to try and keep Marlowe on the wrong track. Mark Rydell's portrayal of Marty Augustine is also great, giving us a gangster out of the old book, but with a more modern confusion and psychopathic bent. His scene's with Marlowe make him unpredictable and chilling, particularly the coke bottle scene. Jim Bouton's parts as Terry, while small gives us a convincing man of the times, with enough charm to make he and Marlowe's friendship believable.
Ultimately "The Long Goodbye" gives us a world where values have changed and we're shedding some of our old trappings, the laconic P.I., the mythic manly writer, even the hood as a mastermind. The deep bonds of friendship and loyalty, the idea of right and wrong as having absolutes, they've all been compromised and Marlowe exists on his own, after even his cat can't stand by him. Marlowe's address to Terry "Yeah, nobody cares but me." sums up his character very well. His values and decisions are not uninformed, or naive, only alien to the world around him. The ending of the film is remarkably powerful as we've just watched Marlowe get pushed around and alienated, with seemingly little protest. We are tempted to take his "It's ok with me." as a sign of meekness, but with the final gunshot we see that we were very very wrong. He'll shoot you dead, but he needs to be right about it. Terry can't comprehend why Marlowe is so bothered, and basically asks "Isn't that just how people are?" Maybe, but not this time, Marlowe says with the bullet. It's just a shame he had to come from the 40's to say so.

What Happens?

Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) sleeps in his clothes, on a mattress on the floor in his small apartment until awakened by his cat jumping on him. The cat keeps calling and Marlowe, knowing it's hungry gets up to feed it, only to find he's out of cat food. He tries to pacify the cat with food from the fridge but the cat isn't happy. He mumbles to himself on the way out the door. "Going out to get special cat food. I must be out of my fucking mind..." On the way out he passes his neighbors, a group of attractive young women who appear to be having a party. One of them asks him to pick up some brownie mix while he's out.  She tells him he's the nicest neighbor they've ever had and he mumbles, smoking a cigarette, walking away "I've got to be the nicest neighbor. I'm a private eye. It's ok with me."

We then find Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) driving out of a gated estate "The Malibu Colony"  and stopping to talk to the gatekeeper in order to hear the guard's impersonations. He impersonates Barbara Stanwyck (badly) from Double Indemnity. Lennox humors the man and drives off.

Marlowe gets to the store and ambles through with a cigarette in his mouth. An employee tells him his lights are on and he mumbles "Oh yeah, thanks a lot." and walks past. We see Lennox on the highway. examining what look to be fingernail scratches on his face. He stops and looks at his bruised and bloody knuckles before putting on gloves.

Marlowe mumbles about the prices at the store and too many kinds of cat food. He can't find "Courry" brand cat food, and asks an employee who tells him they're out and he should get another as they're all the same. Marlowe replies "Oh yeah? You don't have a cat by any chance, do ya?" The employee replies "What do I need a cat for? I got a girl." Marlowe mumbles to himself through his cigarette, "Ha ha. He's got a girl and I got a cat."

The girls next door thank Marlowe for getting their brownie mix. He declines to take their money, saying "Put it on the bill." One of them offers "Mr. Marlowe, I'll save you a brownie." He answers "Thanks a lot, but they hurt my teeth." He mumbles out of earshot "but if you want to make me a couple of Yankee Doodles..."
In his apartment, he closes the door so the cat can't get in the kitchen. He opens a can of cat food and empties it into one of the old Courry brand cans, before loudly exclaiming "Oh, the cat's hungry! Right!" and opening the kitchen doors. He has another smoke and then follows the cat into the kitchen. He pulls the Courry brand can from his shopping bag and pretends to open it, and dishes it out. The cat isn't fooled. Marlowe says "So it's not Courry cat food. It's ok with me." Lennox shows up at Marlowe's place. Marlowe immediately notices his scratches and asks
"You and Sylvia going at it again?"
Lennox: Yeah, would you like to hear the sordid details?
Marlowe: Nah, I've heard em before. You like to lose a couple of bucks?
Marlowe produces a dollar bill, causing Lennox to pull out one of his own. Marlowe says "I got an L"
Terry counters "L? D... four 7's."
Marlowe: You really think I believe you got four 7's?
Lennox: Probably think I don't have any.
Marlowe: Yeah...Well then, I gotta say five 7's
Lennox: Umm..I challenge.
Marlowe: Challenge...How many you got?
Lennox: None
Marlowe: Yeah I got 3.
He hands Lennox the dollar. Marlowe asks "Who were the three DiMaggio brothers?"
Lennox: "Vince, Don, and...Joe."
Marlowe: Joltin' Joe yeah...Want me to fix up the couch for you tonight?
Lennox: Well, Marlowe, that's what I'm here to talk to you about. [Marlowe lights another cigarette] I really need more than that.
Marlowe: You want to sleep in my bed?
Lennox: No. I got a lot of people looking for me as a result of my lovely wife and I really need a ride.
Marlowe: Where do you want me to take you?
Lennox: Tijuana
Marlowe; Tijuana? Tijuana now?
Lennox: Yeah.

We see them driving off and Marlowe letting Lennox out of the car in Tijuana. Marlowe returns to his apartment in the afternoon and asks the girls next door if they've seen his cat. He looks around for the cat when two men approach him outside. He pretends not to notice and one asks him "Is your name Marlowe?" He says "No. My name is Sidney Jenkins." The man replies, "Come on, let's go inside Marlowe. We want to talk to you." They push him around inside his apartment and tell him to sit down. He says "I'd rather stand." and getting pushed down says "I don't mind sitting either."
"Marlowe, I'm Sgt. Green, (this is Detective Dayton."
Marlowe: Yeah, I saw your badge where's his? [Dayton pulls out his badge.]
Dayton: Where did you go last night Marlowe?
Marlowe: Is this the part where I say, 'what is this about?' and he says 'Shut up, i ask the questions."
Greene: Yeah, yeah, that's right Marlowe, so just answer the questions. Where did you go last night?
Marlowe: Well, maybe if I knew why you wanted to know I could remember [Dayton looks around the apartment]
Dayton: You gainfully employed, Marlowe?
Marlowe: No, no, no.
Dayton: Where do you work?
Marlowe: Yeah, yeah I heard you. I understand English, believe it or not. I'm a private detective. I have my own agency. [notices Dayton looking at the girls next door.] These girls are vicious.
Greene: Marlowe, you know a white guy by the name of Terry Lennox.
Marlowe: Oh yeah? Who says I do?
Greene: His address book and that yellow bomb downstairs in your garage.
Marlowe: So?
Dayton: [looking away from the girls] Marlowe, just answer the question.
Marlowe: You want to know what I did last night? Well my cat woke me up in the middle of the night, he was really hungry, so I went to fix him his favorite kind of cat food, Courry brand, it's the only kind he eats, and I was out of it. So I fixed something else up and the cat clawed the hell out of me, just wouldn't touch it. So I went out to the Thrifty Mart, you know, it's open twenty four hours, to get some Courry brand cat food. And, they were out of Courry brand cat food! Son of a bitch. SO I got a couple other cans. you know. ANd I came back and I switched the labels of the cans around and son of a bitch the cat just left...[the cops shrug at each other]
Dayton: Marlowe, would you forget the goddamn cat!
Grrene: Courry brand cat food, Marlowe?
Marlowe: Yeah, you got any?
Dayton: Now we know what time Terry Lennox left the Malibu Colony and we know about what time he got here. Your girlfriends across the way there, were too busy making their hash pies, they didn't notice anything.
Greene: What the hell is this, Marlowe? [holding up a large gold shoe]
Marlowe: It's a baby shoe.
Dayton: Lennox left his car in your garage and then went somewhere. Now since you went somewhere also, it would seem logical to assume that maybe you went somewhere together. Suppose you tell me where?
Marlowe: [lighting a cigarette, and standing up] Well, I'll tell ya, I don't have to answer any questions that you guys ask unless you have a specific charge. I know that. So if you don't have a specific charge, I'd appreciate it if you just go on down the elevator...
Greene: Dayton, do we have a specific charge against Marlowe?
Dayton pushes Marlowe, knocking him into Greene. They read him his rights and take him away.

Taking mug shots, Marlowe asks if they have any cotton candy, or a merry go round.The photographer says "My, my, you are a pretty asshole." Marlowe quips, "Yeah, my mother always tells me that." They take his prints. They throw him into a spare room for interrogation. The men watching through the glass remark that Marlowe's a smart ass. The interrogator remarks that the E on his name means he "must be a fag." Marlowe dismisses the first man's questions. He says "You better have the right answers when Farmer gets here." Farmer (Stephen Coit) enters the room and the first Detective tells Farmer that  Marlowe is "a real cutie pie." Marlowe gets up to shake hands, but Farmer tells him to sit down.
Farmer: Why can't you answer one simple question?
Marlowe: For two reasons, one, I don't like the way you guys ask questions, and two, I don't know what you want to know..
Farmer: You expect me to believe that Terry Lennox showed up in the middle of the night, you drove him someplace a couple hundred miles and he didn't tell you.
Marlowe; That's what I've been telling you.
Farmer: You want to know the charges? Ok, accessory after the fact of murder,
Marlowe: Who's dead?
Farmer: Aiding a felon in unlawful flight.
Marlowe: Lieutenant, Who's dead?
Farmer: Terry Lennox's wife, that's who's dead. and not a nice dead. [shows Marlowe a picture]
Marlowe: i don't believe it.

Marlowe says he doesn't believe Terry would kill his wife, but Farmer calls Lennox a hood, mentioning he's in tight with Marty Augustine. They have have Marlowe booked and he's released in three days. He asks for answers before he leaves and Farmer tells him that Terry Lennox is dead and the case is closed.

An associate named Morgan (Warren Berlinger) is waiting at the station for Marlowe. When Marlowe buys a newspaper, Morgan tells him not to bother as he won't find anything in it. He then offers him a ride home, saying "besides there's a few back issues I want you to see. You might be interested in them." On the ride Marlowe, looks through the newspapers Morgan kept for him. He sees a story about Terry's suicide proving his wife's murder, as well as a story about himself being charged and refusing to talk. The paper say that Terry killed himself in a small town and left a full confession. Morgan tells him "I'm sorry you're so stupid. There you are in the pokey, taking lumps for a friend of yours and he lets you down."  Marlowe doesn't understand why Terry wouldn't kill himself in Tijuana. Marlowe says "I get it, case closed, all zippered up like a bag of shit. Terry Lennox wasn't at the end of his rope. The way he talked, Sylvia wasn't dead then either. I don't believe he killed her. I don't believe he killed himself." Morgan "Everybody else does."
Marlowe stops at a bar looking for Herbie (Herb Kerns.) Herbie tells him he has new sandwiches in. Marlowe asks Herbie if he has any messages. He then makes a call to Mrs. Roger Wade who has a job for him. He tells her he doesn't do any divorce work. She tells him it's a missing persons case and they set up a meeting. He says "That's ok with me. Better give me your address. ...[repeats] the Malibu Colony." He makes his way there, after convincing a stubborn dog to get out of the road and getting through the gate keeper at the Malibu Colony, who is pleased when Marlowe recognizes his Jimmy Stewart impersonation. Marlowe meets with Eileen Wade (Nina Van Pallandt) who tells him to come in , but he's surprised when inside a doberman rushes up to him barking. Eileen waves the dog away, and then tells him she has to make a phone call. Marlowe overhears her tell someone on the phone that she's Roger Wade's secretary and he's locked in his study. She tells Marlowe, "You don't look like your picture." Marlowe says "Thank you very much. You don't look like a secretary." She tells him that she's covering for his image. She explains that Roger has a drinking problem and every now and then he disappears to dry out. She explains that Roger's been gone for a week. He asks her about waiting so long and remarks about a bruise on her face saying "I don't mean to be tactless, Mrs. Wade, but it doesn't look like you walked into a door." She explains that she fell out of bed. Marlowe tells her she needs something to go on. She says "He's Roger Wade."
Marlowe: Mhm, Roger Wade, big writer.
Eileen: Yes, he's a big man too. 6'5", weighs 220 lbs., and once you've seen his face, you'll never forget it.
Marlowe: Sounds like some kind of monster.
Eileen: Only when he drinks. Would you like a drink or something?
Marlowe: No, no. I'm good. So let me get this straight, this is different from some of the times your husband behaves this way, but not different from all the times. Is that right?
Eileen: That's right.
Marlowe: Could you explain that to me?
She produces a manuscript he left behind, which repeats, "Help me Dr. V" She tells him that he was originally named Billie Joe Smith, until his publishers asked him to change it to suit the kinds of books he writes. She offers him an advance, which he turns down saying he prefers itemized accounting. He asks if she knows Terry and Sylvia, but she doesn't offer any information.

Marlowe then visits the Burbank Care Center, and asks about Wade and a Doctor Veringer. The nurses at the front desk tell him that Veringer is out and they haven't seen Wade. He walks out muttering "Those ladies are a lot of help. Crazy ladies, that's ok with me." He then wanders the grounds asking people at random about Wade. A man from the front desk follows him, and catches up asking Marlowe who he's looking for. Marlowe soon concludes the man is Doctor Veringer (Henry Gibson) when a group of people they walk past says "Good morning Dr. Veringer." Veringer then asks him to leave. Marlowe asks him why he cares if Veringer isn't there.

Later Marlowe tells Eileen that Veringer denied being himself and wouldn't look at Roger Wade's picture, which makes him fairly sure that Roger is there. Marlowe tells Eileen she should go with him to see Veringer, who would have to answer the questions. She declines saying Roger doesn't want her to know he's there.
Marlowe: So Mrs Wade, What do you want me to do?
Eileen: I want you to make sure he's alright, and try to bring him home if you can. If you have any trouble, I'll back you up, but I don't think you're afraid of trouble.
Marlowe: What makes you say that?
Eileen: Well I looked at your picture in the paper and I liked what you did for my friend.
Marlowe: Your friend?
Eileen: Oh, I mean your friend.What am I talking about? And, um, I like your face too. I figure you're someone I can trust.
Marlowe: [Makes a face] Well you got me lady.

Marlowe sneaks back to the hospital late at night. He happens to see Roger and Dr. Veringer talking, Veringer is unhappy that Roger hasn't paid the fee agreed upon. Wade complains about being drugged up, and tells Veringer the place stinks. Roger threatens to tear the man limb from limb, but the Doctor isn't worried saying "This is my place." Marlowe speaks up from the window telling Roger he's come to take him home. Roger seems excited at the news and walks off with Marlowe despite the Dr.'s protests. Going home Roger is loud and the dog starts barking. Eileen tries to get him inside but Roger says "Yeah, yeah, I go to my little doggie house and you have your nice big house and you've got your friend Marlboro, the duke of bullshit or whatever he is. I don't know. Eileen threatens to leave him if he doesn't settle down. He tells her he doesn't feel well before he goes in and quiets down. After Roger is in the house, she tells him to come back soon, but he explains his job is done and there's no necessity. She then asks if he knew Terry Lennox well, explaining that she doesn't understand how he could kill his wife." Marlowe reveals that he doesn't believe Terry did kill his wife.

Going back home Marlowe is greeted by thugs who tell him Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell) wants to see him. Augustine is in the car closeby and takes issue with a wisecrack. One of the thugs hits him after another crack. Augustine and his crew bring Marlowe up to his apartment, leaving a woman waiting in the car. Augustine is amazed that Marlowe's neighbors are all naked outside meditating. Augustine criticizes Marlowe's place and explains all the money he needs to keep up his lifestyle. Augustine explains that Terry Lennox stole his money and since he was Marlowe's friend, Marlowe has to take care of it. Joanna Eggenweiler, the woman Augustine left in the car, knocks on Marlowe's door, interrupting them. She explains that she heard noises outside the car and was scared. Augustine introduces her to Marlowe. He points out how delicate she is and what a nice face she has, telling Joanna "You're beautiful and I love you.I sleep with a lot of girls, but I make love to you, the single most important person in my life, next to my family." He then breaks a bottle across her face horrifying everyone, then telling his men to get her out of there. He then tells Marlowe, "See, now that's someone I love. And you, you I don't even like.You have an assignment cheapie, find my money." They leave Marlowe's place and he runs out the back watching them He overhears Augustine telling them to follow him if he comes down. The men watching out for him end up watching the girls next door as Marlowe drives off. He then follows Augustine to the Malibu Colony where they let Joanna out. Looking in a window, Marlowe sees Augustine talking to Eileen.

We see Marlowe returning home in the morning. He says hello to the girls next door, who are planning naked yoga. He heads out again, and Augustine's man, Harry (David Arkin) sees him and says "You know those girls next door to you, I think they're a couple of lesbians. That's what I think." Marlowe asks "What makes you say that?" David says "Well look at them, up there doing all those contortions together and no clothes on." Marlowe says "Well they're just doing yoga. I don't know what it is, but it's yoga." Marlowe tells Harry that they dip candles and sell them for a living. Marlowe hands Harry a note, saying "Listen Harry, in case you lose me in traffic, here's the address where I'm going." Harry says "Thank you." Marlowe adds "Harry, I would straighten your tie a little bit. Harry, I'm proud to have you following me." Marlowe heads to the Malibu Colony again, getting a Cary Grant impression from the guard, and telling him to give the kid behind him a Walter Brennan impersonation.Harry has no idea what the guard is doing.

Harry pulls up behind Marlowe and gets out to follow him on foot. He approaches Marlowe, who says "What do you think you're doing Harry? You're not supposed to let me see you following me. Now button your clothes, be neat and go sit in the car." Harry agrees. Marlowe walks to Roger and Eileen's door, muttering "Harry, Harry, don't you know you're never going to be a first rate hood?" Roger answers the door. Eileen soon comes in and Roger says "I believe you know our friend the Marlboro man here." Roger soon asks "Are you here to see me or my wife?" making him a bit uncomfortable. He says he just wanted to see how they were doing. Roger says he needs to talk to his wife for a minute, suggesting Marlowe go down to the beach for a bit while they talk.   Roger wants to know what they were talking about last night, that was important. Eileen reminds him that she said if he keeps drinking, she's going to leave him. He tells her that she has a wall around her, and maybe she already has. He tries to keep things civil, explaining "If only I could make you understand, when a writer can't write it's like being impotent." She says "I understand what that's like too."
Roger: You do? [yells] Balls baby! Balls! Hell, why don't you remember the good we had together, the beautiful times, huh? I got an idea. Why don't you call your friend the Marlboro man in here and ask him a couple of questions.
Eileen: It's not his business.
Roger: Ask him 'Marlboro, when is the last time you made love in the way of a lighthouse at Point Venus in Tahiti, or out in the lagoon, yeah that shining lagoon with the surf booming in the background....
Eileen: It's not his business.
Roger goes out and waves Marlowe back in. He tells Eileen "Contessa, Here's the man, ask your questions." She simply walks away. Roger tells Marlowe, "You know what I wish you'd do? I wish you'd take that goddamn JC Penney tie off, huh, and settle down with me, and you and I are gonna do is have a little old fashioned man to man drinking party. Marlowe tells him "That's Ok with me, but I'm not gonna take my tie off."  The two sit down next to the beach and Roger pours Marlowe some Aquavit.
Roger: You want to lift a toast to anything?
Marlowe: Should we drink to your wife?
Roger: I say we drink to all of us, huh?
Marlowe: Ok. [takes a drink] caraway seeds?
Roger: Yeah yeah, that's true. You've been around a little more than it looks like.
Marlowe: Just a little bit.
Roger: You know I got to say it. I don't really want to in light of your profession, but you've got a pretty good face.
Marlowe: You study faces?
Roger: You don't get to grow a face like mine I guess unless you know a lot about men's faces.
Marlowe: What about lady's faces?
Roger: What about lady's faces?
Marlowe; I don't know.
Roger: Why'd you ask?
Marlowe: I was just wondering.
Roger: Christ, you're a real ding a ling, you know? What you say doesn't quite make sense.And, you're in a little trouble with Marty Augustine, huh?
Marlowe: Yeah
Roger: How much you into him for?
Marlowe: I don't know. I never made a bet.
Roger: Why you have trouble with him?
Marlowe: Don't ask me. You know him pretty good?
Roger: He's a son of a bitch. I'd hate to tell you how much the bastard owes me.
Marlowe: He owes you money?
Roger: yeah, $50,000.00
Marlowe: Won't he pay?
Roger: Drink up, huh? We'll Christ, if he'd already paid, I wouldn't say he owed me, would I?
Marlowe: I guess not.
Marlowe asks about Terry Lennox and Roger says he knew him, but he was the kind of guy that he wouldn't let on he knew him. He then asks "You ever think about suicide Marlboro?"
Marlowe: Me? I don't believe in it. Did you know Sylvia Lennox?
Roger: Sylvia, beautiful broad. I don't know, Marlboro. If I was your age, I think I'd bust my ass to get into something a little more dignified form of endeavor. I'll tell you that.
Marlowe: Like writing?
Roger: no, I'm not talking about myself.

Marlowe heads home, getting his mail on the way upstairs. He finds an envelope with a $5,000.00 bill in it., and a note that says "Good bye, Phil. I'm sorry, Terry" We then see a bus in Mexico and Marlowe getting off into a small village. He talks to the coroner in the town who examined Terry. He shows Marlowe pictures. Marlowe asks about personal effects and they produce a list for him. Marlowe asks about a valise and they assure him it was all sent back.

Marlowe heads home and finds a party at Roger's place. Eileen asks him to stay a while, as Roger is getting drunk. Roger calls Marlowe over and talks about their talk. Dr. Veringer shows up at the party. Roger calls him "Minnie Mouse, the albino turd himself." and says "You know this son of a bitch? Let me tell you one thing about this bastard. He is the epitome of what's wrong with this world. He really is, because he pretend to cure people. You cure people? [laughs] You. Why are you here?
Veringer: We have business to discuss.
Roger: [laughs] Balls! This asshole!
Veringer: Roger...
Roger: What?
Verigner: Would you prefer to discuss this in private or...
Roger: Discuss what?
Veringer: Shall we discuss our business here, in front of all your friends?
Roger: By all means.
Veringer demands that Roger pay him the money he owes. Roger says he won't and Veringer slaps him int he face. Roger changes his mind and tells everyone to leave. He sits down and signs the check for Veringer, who tells him "That's a good boy." Roger collapses in his study chair, while Eileen fixes Marlowe something to eat. She makes an elaborate dinner, which he calls "the fanciest dinner I ever had." He suggests that Eileen stay in a hotel or with friends. He asks what Augustine was doing there the other night. She explains that Roger owed Augustine $10,000.00. Marlowe says he though it was the other way around. Marlowe then tells her that people said Terry Lennox was working for Augustine. Eileen says she doesn't believe it. Marlowe asks her if Roger was having an affair with Sylvia Lennox but she denies it. He asks where Roger was when Sylvia was killed. They notice that Roger has made it outside and thrown himself into the surf. Marlowe and Eileen go in after him but can't reach him.They call the police who get a boat out but can't find him. They question Eileen about the suicide. Marlowe tells off the officers bothering Eileen. He then asks Eileen "Are you lying about your husband? Your loony tunes husband could've killed Sylvia Lennox. Look he's not gonna be walking out of there." Eileen says "I couldn't tell anybody. Roger had an affair with Sylvia and Terry found out and Sylvia wanted to break it off and Roger was jealous and Roger went to see her and then she was dead and then I read in the paper that Terry confessed and I don't know what to think." Marlowe says "You don't know what to think? Well, I know what to think. I know what to do and I know what to think." Marlowe tells Officer Farmer (who's on the beach) that he has new information on the case. Farmer tells him that they knew Roger saw Sylvia that day and what time he went to Veringer's clinic. Marlowe unloads a drunken rant at Farmer.

We then find Marlowe being escorted to Augustine's place. Augustine complains that he hasn't heard from him and still doesn't have his money. He has Joanna brought in again after Marlowe asks about her. She comes out with a bandage on her nose. Augustine explains all the treatment they'd given her and how bad he felt about what happened. He tells a story about how he stripped naked in the hospital and apologized because he had nothing to hide. He tells Marlowe to strip naked and tell him where the money is. Marlowe refuses but Augustine has one of his men attempt to help. He also tells his men to strip too, and they strip to their underwear. (one of the thugs is an uncredited Arnold Schwarzenegger) This knocks out the envelope with the $5,000.00 in it which Augustine sees. He asks "What's that?" Marlowe quips "A picture of James Madison." Augustine asks if Terry is alive and if he has a deal with him. Getting more agitated, he asks for a knife and hands it to Harry, telling Harry "He thinks it's funny. Cut it off." One of the thugs interrupts saying he has something important to tell Augustine. The thug whispers something and Augustine then orders everyone out, leaving Marlowe and Joanna in the room. He tells Joanna "A lot of trouble for $5,000.00." He offers her a cigarette and she declines. He says "That's ok with me." Marlowe then leaves and on the way out Augustine gives him the $5,000.00 back "for your trouble." He says he admires that he told the truth and tells him to stop by sometime. Marlowe says "oh yeah yeah, thanks a lot, especially since my fairy godmother dropped the $350,000.00 back in your lap." We see the thugs bringing up a lot of money.

Leaving the building, Marlowe sees Eileen driving by and tries to flag her down, but she keeps driving. Marlowe gets hit by a car and put into an ambulance. We see him in the hospital next to someone in a full body cast. The man in the cast offers him a mini harmonica, which Marlowe takes playing a note for the man before putting it into his pocket. He leaves the hospital and goes back to Eileen's place, finding the place being emptied and a realtor in charge. He asks for information but the realtor isn't helpful. He tells the women cleaning "Ladies, it's OK with me." He runs home and asks the girls next door  if they can watch out for his cat as he'll be away for a few days. They don't even realize he's there as they're involved in chanting."They're not even there. That's Ok with me." he says.

We see another bus to Mexico, and Marlowe getting off. He goes back to the town where Terry died and talks to the police and the coroner. He tells them "I've come for the truth about Terry Lennox." offering that he's prepared to "make a donation" showing his $5,000.00. They admit that the suicide was a fake, and they buried a coffin with stones in it and that Terry had given them $5,000.00 to do it. We see Marlowe walking down a long road into a lush estate. He finds Terry lying in a hammock. He says "How you doing Terry?"
Terry: [surprised] Marlowe? I guess if anybody was gonna track me down it would be you. Want a drink or something?
Marlowe: No, I don't want no drink.
Terry: You get a kick out of that Madison I sent you?
Marlowe: I got a big kick out of it. So, you murdered your wife, huh Terry?
Terry: Well, I killed her but you can't call it murder. Wade told her about Eileen and me. She started screaming. She was gonna tell the cops. She knew I was carrying money for Augustine. She was gonna turn me in. I hit her. I didn't try to kill her. I hit her. I didn't mean it.
Marlowe: I saw the photographs. You bashed her face in.
Terry: She didn't give me any choice.
Marlowe; You didn't have much choice, huh? So you used me?
Terry: Yeah, that's what friends are for. I was in a jam. Come on have a drink. I had a dead wife and $350,000.00 that doesn't belong to me. I had to get out. It's as simple as that.
Marlowe; As simple as that?
Terry: Goddamn simple. Cops had me legally dead. Augustine's got his money. He's not looking for me anymore. I got a girl that loves me. She's got more money than Sylvia and Augustine put together. What the hell. Nobody cares.
Marlowe: Yeah, nobody cares but me.
Terry: Well that's you Marlowe. You'll never learn. You're a born loser.
Marlowe: [pulling out a pistol] Yeah, I even lost my cat.
Marlowe shoots Terry dead and watches him fall into the river behind him. He walks down the road seeing Eileen drive past him and take a look. He pulls out the harmonica playing it as he walks, and more people start coming out of the spaces between the trees. Marlowe grabs a woman and dances with her as "Hurray For Hollywood" starts playing in the background, bringing in the credits.


Unknown said...

This may be my fave Altman film. There is something about the atmosphere of the film and how Elliott Gould carries himself throughout it. The "man out of time" aspect of THE LONG GOODBYE is a fascinating one and I think it is worth noting that the first image we get of Marlowe is of him sleeping. In the extras on the DVD, Altman compares his take on Marlowe to that of Rip Van Winkle and that Marlowe has been asleep for years only to wake up in the 1970s with no idea of what is going on. He is out of sorts with the world as so beautifully shown throughout the film.

The rambling nature of the film, filled with all sorts of satirical humor clearly anticipates a film like THE BIG LEBOWSKI and the Coens have stated that Altman's film was influence on them and it shows. Both films feature a protagonist who is clearly out of step with the times and is acosted by all sorts of bizarre characters that could only reside in California.

Excellent review!

INDBrent said...

Thanks J.D., it may be my favorite Altman also, and thanks for pointing out the "Lebowski" connection. This treatment of Marlowe certainly set up the Coen's version very well! The Dude is the next step forward.backward from Gould's Marlowe for sure!

MarkusWelby1 said...

I'm loving Altman more and more as I get older and I keep hearing about this one. I love the Maltese Falcon and seeing another interpretation of the Marlowe character intrigues me.

INDBrent said...

Thanks for stopping in! This is certainly a different version of Marlowe than you've seen before. Please stop by your impressions once you've checked it out as well!

Jackball Johnson said...

Fantastic piece, friend, I appreciate how you tied things together that I didn't catch. Maybe there's no significance but I'd love to know who the man in the hospital was and why the mini harmonica. Maybe that's the point, that there is no point. Also, Marlowes character seems to have rubbed off in another coen film character, Tom Reagan in Millers Crossing, if only in the aspect of having a code. Both characters get punched around a lot and at the end they both show some steel. Just a thought. Probably reading too much into it, but love that style. Gracia and peace.