RARA-AVIS: Marlowe at the Movies

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 07 Dec 2007

Jim wrote:

> That doesn't seem to be as true of Altman's THE LONG
> GOODBYE. To the degree that the people who go to
> movies based on Chandler novels are Chandler fans,
> then THE LONG GOODBYE's financial and critical failure
> (and it was a flop in both respects when first
> released), contrasted with the financial and critical
> success of, say, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY two years later,
> suggests that there were far more Chandler fans who
> disliked TLG, than Shakespeare fans who disliked WSS.

Now we're counting tickets sold to justify art? And who's driven to discuss FARWWELL MY LOVELY with much passion these days. It's a nice enough piece of well-mounted and well-crafted fluff that I find quite enjoyable, but let's face it: Mitchum got to the party thirty years too late and the fussy attention to detail makes it seem like a museum piece at times. It's Marlowe in aspic.

And it pales in comparison to the Dick Powell version, probably the best adaptation of Chandler so far.

And as for THE LONG GOODBYE being a supposed critical flop, that's not necessarily so either. Granted, it got several mixed and guarded reviews, but it also got the thumbs up from some fairly well-respected critics (if anyone can respect a critic) such as Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael.

"Don't be misled by the ads, The Long Goodbye is not a put-on. It's great fun and it's funny, but it's a serious, unique work."
-- The New York Times

And since then, it's certainly weathered a lot of the original knee- jerk criticism from Chandler fetishists, who seem to have no problem liking Hawks' BIG SLEEP, in its own way as much a diversion from the source material as THE LONG GOODBYE.

I mean, Marlowe as a stud, trading double entendres, flirting with a cabbie and boinking a bookstore clerk on the floor of her shop during surveillance? Compared to that, Altman and Brackett's Rip Van Marlowe actually seems more faithful to the spirit and essence of the character in many ways, even if the world Marlowe finds himself in has been stood on its head.

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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