RARA-AVIS: Re: The Long Goodbye

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 12 Feb 2007


Re your comments below:

"He kills a man who has brutally beaten his wife to death, escaped to Mexico and made Marlowe his fall guy. He kills a man who would certainly kill him if Marlowe tried to drag him back across the border to civilized justice. Marlowe's disgust when he says he saw the photos of the murder scene and Sylvia's condition tells us all we have to know about where his heart is. And just because Marlowe doesn't allow Terry to fire first, like Bogart does with Canino (who he pretty much sets up to be tricked and slaughtered)
, doesn't mean he has made a huge leap away from Chandler's creation. It just means the story is taking place in a modern world for the time the movie was made."

I can almost see a situation where the ending of the film would have seemed appropriate and true to the spirit, if not the precise letter, of Chandler's original. But there would've had to have been some foreshadowing that Marlowe was the kind of man who cared enough about justice to want to do something about it.

Gould's Marlowe is simply someone who gets pushed from pillar to post with little protest and then, unexpectedly, erupts at the end, less, it seemed to me, because he was disgusted at the murder, than because of Lennox's betrayal.

And all Canino had to do was give up when Marlowe braced him. Instead he came up shooting. Supposedly a member of the old NYPD stakeout team once said that stakeouts are set up to be executions in the hope that they turn out to be nice, quiet surrenders. Do you really think Marlowe would have shot Canino, however much he may have deserved it, if Canino had dropped the gun and given up?

That's not just the passage of time; that's a material difference in the way the situation is handled. One shot down an armed man in self-defense. The other shot down an unarmed man in cold blood.

"You sir, are very easily entertained."

If I was that easily enteratined, Altman wouldn't have had such a hard time entertaining me.

". . . in the 70s that would mean he'd have to be dead by the third or fourth reel. It would be a little hard to believe that Marlowe could 'push back' against five or six thugs and survive. Especially if one of them was the Terminator."

Why? He was pushing back against the same kinds of thugs just 3 years earlier in MARLOWE. Had things changed that much in 4 years. Harry Callahan faced multiple thugs in DIRTY HARRY, just 2 years earlier. The point is, Callahan, and Marlowe as depicted in MARLOWE, were portrayed as men you COULD believe might prevail against superior odds, and, in any case, were portrayed as men who wouldn't simply knuckly under. Just two years AFTER TLG, Mitchum's Marlowe was facing down multiple thugs in the remake of FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, and, while it was SET in the '40's, do you really think '70's-era thugs were that much more dangerous?

It's unbelievable for Gould's Marlowe-the-Nebbish to fight back precisely because he's depicted as a nebbish instead of the archetype of the hard-boiled PI.

"And most of us knew he was speaking ironically from the very beginning. The bullet was just an exclamation mark. One that I would think would guarantee clarification for the few confused stragglers out there who hadn't gotten it yet."

I didn't think he was being ironic, even after the bullet. Just insincere. He was trying to avoid getting pushed around by acquiescing, even if it was clear he didn't want to acquiesce. He was the Chamberlain of private eyes, going along in the hope that it would forestall violence instead of stadning up to evil and, by opposing, end it.

And, in the end, all he was able to do was shoot down an unarmed man.

What a guy.


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