RARA-AVIS: Re: The various incarnations of The Long Goodbye

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 20 Sep 2010

  • Next message: Patrick Kennedy: "Re: RARA-AVIS: The various incarnations of The Long Goodbye"

    Pierre wrote:

    > I'm not sure what I'm missing here. The film is all about friendship. The word "friend" is probably used more in the film than the now-famous phrase "It's alright with me." It's all about Gould's (and Altman's) Marlowe helping out a friend in need, and then covering for him when it looks like the friend is in trouble (to the point where he's - briefly -jailed), and finally killing that "friend" because he really wasn't a friend after all - and that, in Marlowe's world view, is the greatest sin of all. ...
    >
    > Marlowe says (and here Im depending on my increasingly aged and undependable memory) "You used me Terry," and Terry says "Thats what friends are for." They continue - Terry says "Nobody cares Marlowe. Only you. And youre a loser." Marlowe replies "Yeah, I even lost my cat," and then blows Terry away.
    > Symmetrical, decisive, righteous, and stunningly brilliant writing by Leigh Brackett. Terry had faked his own death. He was legally already dead and one cannot be punished for killing a dead man.
    >
    > I don't see that as "stoned surfer boy" stuff. That's hard boiled.

    Gee, somebody saw the same film I did. Well put, Pierre. I think some people mistake haberdashery choices for being faithful to a character.

    And Patrick Kennedy wrote :

    > Yes, of those claiming to represent Chandler's estate, Helga Greene was perhaps
    > the last to care or even know enough about his writing to see that his
    > legacy wasn't abused. The 'estate' has made many mistakes in its duties, one of
    > which was its choice of Robert B Parker to complete 'The Poodle Springs Story',
    > another in allowing James Caan to play Philip Marlowe (one 'l' and an 'e' at the
    > end) in the HBO adaptation of it. Caan was too old and stiff in his playing and
    > the actress playing Marlowe's wife carelessly too young. They even had to
    > insert a running gag about the disparity of their ages in Tom Stoppard's script
    > - and for some reason not call the character Linda Loring at all. They then
    > moved the action forward in time to the 'Sixties so that they could include a
    > subplot about Mafia involvement in the JFK assassination...
    > So, someone here mentioned that actually, we, the fans, are the true caretakers
    > of Chandler's estate. I think maybe they were right.

    That was me. Although I disagree with you about the Parker decision (at the time I think he was arguably the best choice, if anyone was going to do it, and certainly the most commercial), I do agree that the TV adaptation was a real stinker. Talk about horrid. It wasn't true to Chandler, it wasn't even true to Parker.

    And anyway, can you think of a more thankless task than a bestselling writer with his own unique style being hired -- with much hoopla -- to complete a legendary half-finished novel by a legendary author with his own very distinct style who had already decided to piss off his readers?

    Because let's face it: if Chandler had lived to complete POODLE SPRINGS, successfully marrying off Marlowe for good, it's very likely almost everyone here on this list would have hated the novel. And Saint Chandler's critical rep would have taken a huge, huge ding.

    You want to argue about other misguided adaptations, let's talk about James Garner in MARLOWE. Or the cheapo, antiseptic PBS-lite costume dramas with Stacy Keech, where Marlowe had a girlfriend and lived in a world where the mean streets were swept clean by set designers every five minutes so as to not risk dirtying the antiques.

    But even when Chandler was alive, there was plenty of "abuse of his legacy." Ever caught the TV show? The generic radio shows? THE FALCON TAKES OVER? TIME TO KILL? LADY IN THE LAKE? Maybe his "literary estate" has just been keeping a glorious tradition alive.

    After all, when you consider how influential and beloved Chandler's books have been, it's hard to believe there have been so few decent adaptations -- in any medium -- and so many disappointing ones. A handful of films, a graphic novel or two, maybe some of those BBC radio presentations, but that's about it.

    At least THE BIG SLEEP and THE LONG GOODBYE films were interesting and entertaining in their own right, and showed that someone somewhere down the line had actually read Chandler, even if they were loosely playing with it (Hawks) or reacting against it (Altman).

    Me, I still prefer Dmytryk's MURDER, MY SWEET.

    Kevin

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