From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 21 Aug 2003

Jim, you wrote:

"You're right, it shouldn't be an insult. But it is. Moreover, it's a deliberate, calculated insult. Insulting the book, the character, the author, and the genre was Altman's entire purpose."

In addition, you have repeatedly said the Altman showed contempt for the material. Where is your evidence? You criticize Terrill for making a crack about ethics police, tell him there's no need to be saracastic, but is it any better to be dismissive without evidence, as you are?

Is an exploration of a genre which includes questioning its continued viability necessarily contemptuous or an insult? I'd say any genre needs to be examined in order to stay vital. Was Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller a contemptuous insult to the western genre it explored?

Also, you're putting it all on Altman. What about Leigh Brackett? Yes, Altman's films are highly improvisational, but they have scripts. And the script for The Long Goodbye was written by Leigh Brackett, the co-scripter of Big Sleep and writer of the Chandleresque No Good from a Corpse. She wrote a very interesting essay (printed in Big Book of Noir) about the need for changes to the Marlowe of Big Sleep and gives the reasons for the specific ones they made in Long Goodbye. There is nothing to indicate she thought the latter film was an insult to Chandler or contemptuous of the genre. As a matter of fact, she ends the essay by saying:

"In its first release, the film was greeted, by some critics, with the tone of outrage generally reserved for those who tamper with the Bible. This seems just a bit silly to me. I'm an old Chandler fan from way back, probably farther back than a lot of the critics. He was a powerful influence on my own work in those years. But I don't feel that any sacrilege was being committed. And I doubt that Chandler himself would have regarded every aspect of his work as Holy Writ.

"I think he might even have liked Altman's versin of The Long Goodbye."

Where is the contempt you so cavalierly proclaim? Is Brackett contemptuous of Chandler, Marlowe and the genre?


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