Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Movie Marlowe

From: Terrill Lankford (
Date: 30 Jan 2007

-----Original Message-----
>From: Channing <>
>Sent: Jan 26, 2007 9:37 AM
>Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Movie Marlowe
>I don't care how good "The Long Goodbye" is supposed to be, Elliott Gould is horribly
>miscast as Marlowe. He's a light-weight in a heavy-weight role. Gould is a whiny, goofy
>wimp, not a hard-boiled tough guy that could take a punch, or a sap to the head.

All this talk about THE LONG GOODBYE forced me to whip out the movie and watch it again. While Gould, at times, appears to be a bit goofy, it is generally an act he is using to manipulate others around him - the cops, Marty Augustine and his thugs, the quack doctor and his staff. At no point does he appear whiny or a wimp. (And if I'm missing something here, please give me an example.) Not only can he take a punch, but he is hit by a car and springs back to life and shakes it off when he wakes up in the hospital next to someone who has presumably been in some kind of SERIOUS accident since they are covered head to toe in bandages. (Maybe this is a comment by Altman about how the PI in this kind of fiction usually takes a beating that would lay a normal human out for six months - if they survived at all - but is somehow miraculously healed within days if not hours.)

(BTW - I find it ironic that Gould would be considered too whiny as Marlowe. In Chandler's books Marlowe spends quite a lot of time whining. Some of those scenes seem to be less about character and story and more about Chandler's inability to fit in with modern society. And that's not necessarily a criticism.)

I have a feeling that the very idea of Elliot Gould was and is a sacrilege to the fanatic Marlowe fan. He's not in the standard mold. But then, neither was Dick Powell. But he, too, was great in the role. I think for this kind of fan this movie was doomed before they saw it. Nothing anyone says will change that. (But I must say it anyway. Because I live in a noir world and am doomed. Just like the rest of you.)

There are many scenes where Gould is the perfect wisecracking tough guy. His banter with his associates and friends is dead on and believable. His sarcastic volleys with the crooks and the cops have a modern slant, but are clearly rooted in the classic film noirs of the past. And in the final scene he goes where Marlowe never had the balls to go - but it is the perfect modern updating of the knight errant character. So much so that that scene would be emulated for years to come in other books and movies. Yes, it is shocking. And it is the most controversial of moments in this film for the Chandler fanatic. "Marlowe would never do that!" they exclaim. But I think it is a logical modern extension of the hero. Lennox has murdered his wife and escaped justice. Marlowe takes the only course left to him that will change that. Afterwards, people come out and dance in the streets because - in Altman's word's (and I'm sure this is not an exact quote) "Things were made right in the world - if only for a few moments."

I think Gould may actually reveal himself to be the TOUGHEST MARLOWE EVER in this final scene with Terry Lennox. He's a true badass here. In attitude, language, and deed.

I'm diving into the foxhole and wrapping myself in asbestos now!


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