Re: RARA-AVIS: Movie Adaptations & "THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)

Date: 21 Aug 2003


Re your questions and comments below:

> You and Terrill and Mario are forgetting an
> important name here: Leigh Brackett, who wrote the
> "Long Goodbye" screenplay. And, before you start
> placing a black hat on Altman and a white hat on her
> 'cause Brackett wrote her own HB, let me add that an
> interview I read with Brackett made it clear the
> ending of the 1973 "Long Goodbye" reflected *her
> own* attitude toward the Marlowe character.

All that means is that the criminal abomination that was the 1973 film adaptation of THE LONG GOODBYE was a conspiracy instead of a solo act. And Leigh Brackett's culpability is not mitigated by either her contributions to the screenplay of the much superior
(and much more faithful) BIG SLEEP or her own NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE. Nor does her work on those much superior pieces make THE LONG GOODBYE somehow more acceptable or more valid.

On the contrary, Leigh Brackett's (presumably) superior understanding of the hard-boiled genre and the hard-boiled ethos makes THE LONG GOODBYE even more of a betrayal than if Altman had also written the script. At least Altman was following his own artistic vision, flawed and ugly though it was. Brackett was betraying a genre in which she had proved herself capable of producing first-class work.
> Also, as far as screen adaptations which employ the
> same title are concerned ... the '40s "Big Sleep"
> (screenplay: Brackett, William Faulkner, Jules
> Furthman) reassigned the murder of Regan to somebody
> else. Do you disapprove of that adaptation as well?

It was true to the spirit of the book, if not the absolute letter. Film and prose are different mediums. Sometimes changes are necessary to telscope action, to make the piece more visual, etc.

But though film and prose are different "languages," so to speak, the adapter's job is much the same as a translator of actual languages, to faithfully interpret the story in a different medium.

Just as a translator might have to use a phrase in one language to convey the exact meaning of a single word in the original language (or conversely a single word to convey the meaning of an entire phrase), a prson adapting a complex novel into a two-hour film might have to combine characters, delete scenes, etc., to convey the story as faithfully as possible given the constraints of the medium and the available time.

That's wholly different from what Altman did, and did deliberately, by decontructing the whole hard-boiled genre within the context of "adapting" one of the most respected novels in that genre.

Chandler approved (with some reservations) of the film adaptation of THE BIG SLEEP. Do you honestly think he would have approved of THE LONG GOODBYE?


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